Nicholas M. Almond, Catriona Morrisonb
Background: The face-name association technique (FNAT) is commonly used to investigate name recall in nonpathologic aging. This technique is appropriate for studying anomia, but the pure-list technique, in which participants see only names and do not need to form face-name associations, might be more appropriate for studying age-related name recall.
Methods: Experiment 1 recruited 60 adults (30 younger and 30 older adults) to participate in the FNAT recognition task of 30 common and 30 uncommon names. In experiment 2, the same number and demographic of participants attempted to recall 30 common and 30 uncommon names. Both experiments utilized measurements of overall recall across 5 trials and a delayed recognition or recall trial. Measures of encoding (gained access) and consolidation (lost access) were also taken for the 5 initial trials in both experiments. Older participants received 50% extra study and recognition/recall time.
Results: The FNAT experiment revealed an age-related episodic memory deficit for names. However, in cued recall, encoding, consolidation, retention/retrieval, and false alarm tests, older adults were significantly better than younger adults at recalling uncommon names, as opposed to common names. This lends support to the inhibition theory of name recall. Conversely, our second experiment revealed no age effect on any factors of name memory functioning, supporting node structure theory.
Conclusions: The results of our experiments support previous findings that suggest an age-related deficit in name recall, but only in cases of anomia. Therefore, the FNAT methodology may be inappropriate for studying age-related name recall. It is possible that names are stored in the memory differently from nouns. We challenge the belief that older adults are significantly less able to recall names compared with other word types, which has implications for both memory self-efficacy questionnaires and research into eyewitness testimonies.