Aging and Associative Recognition: A View From the DRYAD Model of Age-Related Memory Deficits

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How do we best characterize the memory deficits that accompany aging? A popular hypothesis, articulated originally by Naveh-Benjamin (2000) and reviewed in the accompanying article by Smyth and Naveh-Benjamin (2016), suggests that older adults are selectively deficient in establishing associations between to-be-learned memoranda and as a result have deficits in memory for sources or contexts. An alternative proposal, called density of representations yields age-related deficits (DRYAD) and outlined in recent articles by Benjamin (2010) and colleagues (Benjamin, Diaz, Matzen, & Johnson, 2012), attributes disproportionate deficits in memory to a global, rather than a selective, deficit of memory. In an attempt to adjudicate between these competing positions, Smyth and Naveh-Benjamin (2016) discussed 2 sets of experimental data that they claim speak against the global deficit model. Here I review some general principles of how the global-deficit view is applied to experimental paradigms and demonstrate that even a simplified form of DRYAD can comfortably accommodate the critical findings cited by Smyth and Naveh-Benjamin. I also evaluate aspects of their results that may be problematic for DRYAD and describe ways in which DRYAD’s account of associative recognition can be falsified. I end with a discussion of the complementary strengths and weaknesses of the 2 approaches and consider ways in which the associative deficit hypothesis and DRYAD might work more profitably together than apart.

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