Two studies investigated the relationship between working memory capacity (WMC), adult age, and the resolution of conflict between familiarity and recollection in short-term recognition tasks. Experiment 1 showed a specific deficit of young adults with low WMC in rejecting intrusion probes (i.e., highly familiar probes) in a modified Sternberg task, which was similar to the deficit found in old adults in a parallel experiment (K. Oberauer, 2001). Experiment 2 generalized these results to 3 recognition paradigms (modified Sternberg, local recognition, and n back tasks). Old adults showed disproportional performance deficits on intrusion probes only in terms of reaction times, whereas young adults with low WMC showed them only in terms of errors. The generality of the effect across paradigms is more compatible with a deficit in content-context bindings subserving recollection than with a deficit in inhibition of irrelevant information in working memory. Structural equation models showed that WMC is related to the efficiency of recollection but not of familiarity.
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