Age differences in associative and strategic processes in human conditional learning

Edward Walford*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research indicates associative and strategic deficits mediate age related deficits in memory, whereas simple associative processes are independent of strategic processing and strategic processes mediate resistance to interference. The present study showed age-related deficits in a contingency learning task, although older participants' resistance to interference was not disproportionately affected. Recognition memory predicted discrimination, whereas general cognitive ability predicted resistance to interference, suggesting differentiation between associative and strategic processes in learning and memory, and age declines in associative processes. Older participants' generalisation of associative strength from existing to novel stimulus-response associations was consistent with elemental learning theories, whereas configural models predicted younger participants' responses. This is consistent with associative deficits and reliance on item-level representations in memory during later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-794
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date3 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • associative learning
  • cognitive ageing
  • memory


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