Systematic changes in performance on memory tasks have been observed as a function of the number of prior items or lists learned. In an attempt to determine whether this was an 'attentional' phenomenon the effect of arousal (as indexed by Impulsivity and manipulated by caffeine) on memory performance was examined. One hundred college students were given either 4 mg of caffeine/kg body weight or a placebo and then shown four lists (two 24-item and two 80-item) of four letter words. A forced-choice recognition test for the last 20 items was given immediately after each list. The performance of the high impulsives who were given a placebo (least aroused subjects) declined as a function of the number of prior lists learned. Low impulsives (more aroused) showed significantly less decline. Caffeine significantly improved recognition memory especially on the final lists. Decrements in memory performance, as a function of number of prior litsts, are thus reduced by the same variables which reduce vigilance decrements. It is suggested that common explanations will be required.
ASJC Scopus subject areas