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Implicit Memory, Age, and Time of Day

There are two ways on how humans retrieve memories, namely deliberate and unintentional. The deliberate retrieval happens when a person attempts to dig in information. On the other hand, unintentional retrieval happens when an event causes a person to remember something, maybe a similar event or fact. Researchers Cynthia P. May, Lynn Hasher and Natalie Foong initiated a study that will test the efficiency of the aforementioned memory retrieval systems in relation to circadian arousal and time delay.

This is influenced by the results of previous studies on humans and animals models that show that many cognitive processes are influenced by the circadian patterns. Since the tasks given require strategies and careful processes, the researchers ironed out a methodology to test subjects on implicit processes, specifically word-stem completion and category generation. To ensure the quality of the results, both young and adults who have different circadian patterns.

After which, the researches reported that there is a better implicit retrieval at off-peak times, the opposite of the result using explicit tasks. Two experiments were executed. In the first experiment, young evening-type college students and older morning-type adults were faced to both implicit and explicit stem-completion task. They group were divided into two: first half was tested at peak hours and the second half was tested at off-peak hours. 36 college students (ages 18-23) and 48 (ages 60-75) older volunteers were selected for the procedure.

They were selected based on their scores on the Horne-Ostberg (1976) Morningess-Eveningness Questionnaire also known as MEQ. The participants were specifically chosen as morning types and evening types. 96 words were selected for the test, all of which have the following characteristics: (a) 5 letters long, (b) begins with a stem that could be completed with at least four other words in the English language and (c) each was neither the most frequent nor the least frequent completion for its stem.

Half of the participants were tested in the morning and the other half were tested in the evening. After working on the stem-completion task, the participants were given the Extended Range Vocabulary Test (ERVT). In the second experiment, 54 college students (ages 18-37 years) and new old volunteers (ages 57-78) were chosen to participate in the test. Similar to the process on how the participants in the first experiment were selected, they were chosen based on their MEQ scores.

The same method as the first experiment was basically done with this second experiment. The result of the explicit stem-completion task in the first experiment shows that deliberate efforts to retrieve information are more successful at peak rather than at off-peak hours. The result is opposite in on both young and adult volunteers subjected to implicit tasks. In other words, volunteers in the experiments showed greater priming when tested at nonoptimal rather optimal times.

Consequently, it is established that unconscious responses are more effectively produced during off-peak hours. The result suggests that the time at which individuals in different age groups are tested may directly influence the magnitude of memory effects observed within each age group. As a result, time may artificially inflate or reduce the estimate of group differences in memory. As a general rule, after the analysis of the research study, circadian preferences tend to morning in childhood, evening in adolescence and back to morning in advanced age.

Discussion Questions 1) What is the importance of taking the circadian patterns as a factor in the research study? 2) Why do you think deliberate retrieval of information is better in peak times rather than in off-peak hours? 3) Why do you think implicit retrieval of information is better in off-peak times? 4) What are the factors that change the circadian patterns of humans? 5) Is there a chance to develop both deliberate and unintentional retrieval of memory to have the same quality at any time of the day?

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