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Verbal Paired Associate Memory and Learning in Older Adults

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posted on 2023-01-11, 13:40 authored by Fenny Muliadi
Submission note: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor in Clinical Neuropsychology to the School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

The associative deficit hypothesis proposes that memory decline in older adults arises from their difficulty in forming novel associations to bind various pieces of information. This deficit, however, does not appear to affect memory for information with previously established associations. Using verbal paired associate learning paradigm, two studies were conducted to demonstrate that (1) the strength of the pre-established association impacts older adults’ verbal learning and memory, and (2) stronger associations between words can be trained. A community sample of 197 healthy older adults were administered a verbal paired associate learning task consisting of categorical (e.g., apple – orange), integrative relational (e.g., wine – box) and unrelated word-pairs (e.g., anchor – ceiling). Results showed that older adults demonstrated better cued recall of the more strongly associated categorical word-pairs than integrative relational wordpairs, and in turn, better cued recall of integrative relational word-pairs than unrelated word-pairs. In a follow-up study, a subset of these participants were randomly allocated to either a group practising semantic elaboration with feedback or a group practising their preferred strategies with no feedback. Results showed that older adults practising semantic elaboration with feedback demonstrated better learning and cued recall of the more weakly associated integrative relational and unrelated word-pairs relative to the group practising their preferred strategies with no feedback. These findings, based on the verbal paired associate paradigm, are likely to generalise to associations between other item information, such as face – name, and a list of activities or things to do. If so, they give hope to the idea that memory in older adults can be improved by training that strengthens the associations between the to-be-remembered items.


Center or Department

College of Science, Health and Engineering. School of Psychology and Public Health.

Thesis type

  • Doctorate

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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