The hyperpriming phenomenon in normal aging: a consequence of cognitive slowing?

Neuropsychology. 2003 Oct;17(4):594-601. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.17.4.594.


Increased semantic priming effects (hyperpriming) are sometimes observed in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and in normal aging. Whereas the processes underlying this phenomenon are now well understood in AD, the interpretation is much more woolly in normal aging. To explore semantic priming, the authors used a lexical decision task in which the influence of attention and cognitive slowing was controlled. To explore the semantic organization, the words had coordinate (tiger-lion) or attribute relations (zebra-stripes). Priming scores of 21 older and 20 young participants were equivalent in the 2 conditions. These results reflect the integrity of semantic memory with normal aging and call into question some investigations showing hyperpriming for older participants; this may instead be an artifact of a general slowing effect.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Semantics