Recent research and meta-analytic reviews suggest that 1 observed pattern of impaired and intact memory performance with advancing age is a deficit in measures of episodic but not semantic memory. The authors used computational modeling to explore a number of age-related parameters to account for this pattern. A 2-parameter solution based on lifelong experience successfully fit the pattern of results in 5 published studies of the word-frequency mirror effect and paired-associate recognition. Lifelong experience increases the strength (resting level of activation) of concepts in the network but also saturates the network with an increasing number of episodic associations to each concept. More episodic associations to each concept mean that activation spreads more diffusely, making retrieval of any newly established memory trace less likely; however, the greater strength of a concept makes recognition based on familiarity more likely. The simulations provide good quantitative fits to the extant age-related memory literature and support the plausibility of this mechanistic account.
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