Episodic memory in Alzheimer's disease: Separating response bias from discrimination

Andrew E. Budson, David A. Wolk, Hyemi Chong, Jill D. Waring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Most studies examining episodic memory in Alzheimer's disease (AD) have focused on patients' impaired ability to remember information, leading to poor discrimination between studied and unstudied items at test. Poor discrimination, however, can also be attributable to an abnormally high rate of false alarms. One cause of a high false alarm rate is an abnormally liberal response bias; that is, responding "old" too liberally to the test items. In the present study, discrimination and response bias were evaluated when participants were given a series of progressively longer study-test lists of unrelated words. As expected, patients with AD showed overall worse discrimination and a more liberal response bias compared with older adult controls. Critically, patients with AD also showed a more liberal response bias than older adults when discrimination was matched between the groups after performance was equated by giving the older adult controls a more difficult test than the patients with AD. This result confirms that the patients' abnormally liberal response bias is not simply attributable to their poor discrimination. Correlation analyses suggest that the patients' liberal response bias is related to the degree of their episodic memory deficit, which may in turn be related to the severity of their disease. Thus, our research suggests that as AD progresses two distinct abnormalities of episodic memory develop: worse discrimination and a more liberal response bias. Possible explanations of this liberal response bias in patients with AD are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2222-2232
Number of pages11
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2006


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Discrimination
  • Memory
  • Response bias

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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