Hyper-Binding Only Apparent Under Fully Implicit Test Conditions

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We have previously shown that older adults hyper-bind, or form more extraneous associations than younger adults. For instance, when asked to perform a 1-back task on pictures superimposed with distracting words, older adults inadvertently form associations between target-distractor pairs and implicitly transfer these associations to a later paired associate learning task (showing a boost in relearning of preserved over disrupted pairs). We have argued that younger adults are better at suppressing the distracting words and thus, do not form these extraneous associations in the first place. However, an alternative explanation is that younger adults simply fail to access these associations during relearning, possibly because of their superior ability to form boundaries between episodes or shift mental contexts between tasks. In this study, we aimed to both replicate this original implicit transfer effect in older adults and to test whether younger adults show evidence of hyper-binding when informed about the relevance of past information. Our results suggest that regardless of the test conditions, younger adults do not hyper-bind. In contrast, older adults showed hyper-binding under (standard) implicit instructions, but not when made aware of a connection between tasks. These results replicate the original hyper-binding effect and reiterate its implicit nature.

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