Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Studies of young adults have shown that in the presence of intense mood states (e.g., sad), the frequency of task-irrelevant, mood-related thoughts increase and interfere with task performance. Gunther, Ferraro, and Kirchner (1996) tested induced-mood effects on long-term-memory (LTM) recognition of young adults as the recognition task became more difficult. The sad group had longer reaction times (RT) and higher error rates at the toughest recognition level than the neutral group. Gerard, Zacks, Hasher, and Radvansky (1991) studied age-related changes on LTM retrieval using the same paradigm. While the younger and older adults had longer RT and higher error rates at the most difficult recognition level, the magnitude of these differences was greater for the older adults than the younger adults. The present study investigated age differences in the effects of induced moods on LTM retrieval. Although 73 older adults and 126 younger adults participated in the study, many had difficulty completing the memorization task. Thus only 30 older and 97 younger adults completed the study. Those participants were randomly assigned to mood groups and an induction procedure was conducted. The mean of the participants' median RT and error rates were collected during a speeded recognition task where participants distinguished between prelearned and unlearned sentences. First, it was predicted that older adults would have longer RT and higher error rates than younger adults. Second, the sad group was predicted to have longer RT and higher error rates than the neutral group, Third, the sad-older adults' RT and error rates were predicted to differ more from the neutral-older adults' than would the sad-younger adults' differ from the neutral-younger adults'. These differences, for all three predictions, were expected to increase as recognition difficulty increased. While the study found that older adults made proportionally more errors as the recognition difficulty increased than did the younger adults, none of the other predictions were confirmed by the current study. This may have been the result of low power due to the small proportion of participants who completed the study and whose mood was successfully altered.

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