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Absolute versus relative difference measures of priming: Which is appropriate when baseline scores change with age?
journal contributionposted on 2006-06-01, 00:00 authored by Kristina Murphy, E McKone, J Slee
It is often of theoretical interest to know if implicit memory (repetition priming) develops across childhood under a given circumstance. Methodologically, however, it is difficult to determine whether development is present when baseline performance for unstudied items improves with age. Calculation of priming in absolute (priming=studied - unstudied) or relative-to-baseline terms can lead to different conclusions. In first noting this problem, Parkin (1993) suggested using the Snodgrass (1989a) calculation of relative priming [priming=(studied - unstudied)/(maximum - unstudied)], and most developmental studies have since adopted this procedure. Here, we question the Snodgrass method because the Snodgrass method's results are not replicated in the picture identification task when baselines are equated experimentally across age groups. Instead, results support an absolute measure of priming. Theoretically, we argue against its core assumption; namely, that children and adults always lie on the same learning curve, with an equal maximum performance level and equal rate of learning.