Retrieval from Semantic Memory and its Implications for Alzheimer’s Disease

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response latency during retrieval of semantic memory category exemplars, adults with vs without Alzheimer's disease

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In 3 experiments, participants generated category exemplars (e.g., kinds of fruits) while a voice key and computer recorded each response latency relative to the onset of responding. In Experiment 1, mean response latency was faster when participants generated exemplars from smaller categories, suggesting that smaller mental search sets result in faster mean latencies. In Experiment 2, a concurrent secondary task increased mean response latency, suggesting that slowed mental processing results in slower mean latencies. In Experiment 3, the mean response latency of Alzheimer's participants was faster than that of elderly controls, which is consistent with the idea that the semantic memory impairments of Alzheimer's disease patients stem primarily from a reduction in available items (as in Experiment 1) rather than retrieval slowing (as in Experiment 2).

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v. 21, issue 5, p. 1127-1139