Priming Older Adults and People with Alzheimer’s Disease Analogical Problem-solving with True and False Memories
We investigated the extent to which activation of specific information in associative networks during a memory task could facilitate subsequent analogical problem solving in healthy older adults as well as those with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. We also examined whether these priming effects were stronger when the activation of the critical solution term during the memory task occurred when the item was actually presented (true memories) or when this item arose due to spreading activation to a related but nonpresented item (false memory). Older adult controls (OACs) and people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) were asked to solve 9 verbal proportional analogies, 3 of which had been primed by Deese/Roediger-McDermott lists where the critical lure (and problem solution) was presented as a word in the list (true memory), 3 of which were primed by DRM lists whose critical lures were spontaneously activated during list presentation (false memory), and 3 of which were unprimed. As expected, OACs were better (both in terms of speed and accuracy) at solving problems than people with AD and both groups were better when false memories were primes than when true memories were primes or there were no primes. There were no reliable differences between unprimed and true prime problems. These findings demonstrate that (a) priming of problem solutions extends to verbal proportional analogies in OACs and people with AD, (b) false memories are more effective at priming problem solutions than true memories, and (c) there are clear positive consequences to the production of false memories.