Amy Overman publishes two studies in special issue of elite journal

Overman's co-authors on the peer-reviewed research articles include two current Elon students as well as collaborators from Penn State University and North Carolina A&T State University.  

Amy Overman, an associate professor in the Psychology Department and Neuroscience Program and associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, recently published two articles in a special issue of the journal Psychology and Aging that focused on age-related differences in associative memory.

Psychology and Aging is a publication of the American Psychological Association and is a premier outlet for original, peer-reviewed research on age-related cognitive changes. The special issue was edited by Moshe Naveh-Benjamin of the University of Missouri and Ulrich Mayr of the University of Oregon, both of whom are preeminent scholars in the field of cognitive aging.

​In their introduction to the special issue, the editors state, “the current special issue of Psychology and Aging on Age-Related Differences in Associative Memory includes 16 articles by top researchers in the area of memory and aging. Their contributions provide a wealth of empirical work that addresses different aspects of aging and associative memory.”

Overman’s article “Older adults’ associative memory is modified by manner of presentation at encoding and retrieval” was co-authored by collaborators John McCormick-Huhn and Nancy Dennis of Penn State University, and by Elon College, the College of Arts & Sciences seniors Joanna Salerno ’18 and Alexandra Giglio ’18.

This study reported the results of several experiments involving young and older adults’ memory for pictures of faces and scenes. The findings suggest that older adults’ ability to recognize specific face-scene pairs is greatly improved when the faces are embedded within the scenes, rather than presented off to the side – but only if the pairs are both studied and tested in that configuration.

The results align with other experiments by Overman and colleagues, which have found that older adults’ impairment in associative memory may be greater for some types of associations than others. Naveh-Benjamin and Mayr also note that “the study by Overman et al. … provides an example of the involvement of both encoding and retrieval processes in the age-related associative deficits by demonstrating the combined role of unitization processes during encoding and reinstatement of prior stimulus configuration at retrieval in reducing age-related deficits in item-context associations.”

In the final article of the special issue, “Modeling age differences in effects of pair repetition and proactive interference using a single parameter,” Overman and her collaborator Joseph Stephens of North Carolina A&T State University used a computational model to simulate how aging might impair associative memory by reducing the distinctiveness of information stored in memory.

Naveh-Benjamin and Mayr write, “applying the REM model (Retrieving Effectively from Memory; Shiffrin & Steyvers, 1997), the article by Stephens and Overman analyzes data from several experiments and provides evidence implying that specific age-related associative deficits can at least partially be attributed to more general mechanisms.”

Understanding the effects of aging on associative memory is a primary focus of research in Overman’s laboratory, and her work in this area is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health.