A molar entropy model of age differences in spatial memory

Philip A. Allen, Miron Kaufman, Albert F. Smith, Ruth E. Propper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Two very-short-term-memory, spatial scanning aging experiments were conducted involving a graphics character as a target stimulus. On the probe portion of a trial, the stimulus was presented in the same position as it was on the target portion of the trial (i.e., a same trial) 50% of the time. However, on the remaining 50% of the trials, the probe stimulus was shifted (or transposed) 1, 2, or 3 positions to the right or left of the original presentation (target) position. In Experiment 1, exposure duration was manipulated. In Experiment 2, the number of potential target display positions was manipulated. For both experiments, older adults showed larger transposition distance effects than younger adults for errors. In the past (e.g., P. A. Allen, 1990, 1991), this effect has been attributed to higher levels of internal noise (entropy) in older than younger adults. This research provides converging operations to this contention by using statistical physics methods to rigorously compute the entropy in a molar neural network across age groups. After successfully fitting the statistical mechanics model to the data, the model is proved to have external validity by fitting a simplified version of it to an earlier spatial memory aging experiment reported by P. R. Bruce and J. F. Herman (1986). The results of both traditional reaction time and error rate analyses, as well as the entropy modeling analyses, indicated that older adults exhibited higher levels of entropy than did the younger adults and that this effect appeared to be generalized across processing stage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-518
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


Dive into the research topics of 'A molar entropy model of age differences in spatial memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this