How does aging affect recognition-based inference? A hierarchical Bayesian modeling approach

Sebastian S. Horn, Thorsten Pachur, Rui Mata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The recognition heuristic (RH) is a simple strategy for probabilistic inference according to which recognized objects are judged to score higher on a criterion than unrecognized objects. In this article, a hierarchical Bayesian extension of the multinomial r-model is applied to measure use of the RH on the individual participant level and to re-evaluate differences between younger and older adults' strategy reliance across environments. Further, it is explored how individual r-model parameters relate to alternative measures of the use of recognition and other knowledge, such as adherence rates and indices from signal-detection theory (SDT). Both younger and older adults used the RH substantially more often in an environment with high than low recognition validity, reflecting adaptivity in strategy use across environments. In extension of previous analyses (based on adherence rates), hierarchical modeling revealed that in an environment with low recognition validity, (a) older adults had a stronger tendency than younger adults to rely on the RH and (b) variability in RH use between individuals was larger than in an environment with high recognition validity; variability did not differ between age groups. Further, the r-model parameters correlated moderately with an SDT measure expressing how well people can discriminate cases where the RH leads to a correct vs. incorrect inference; this suggests that the r-model and the SDT measures may offer complementary insights into the use of recognition in decision making. In conclusion, younger and older adults are largely adaptive in their application of the RH, but cognitive aging may be associated with an increased tendency to rely on this strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-85
Number of pages9
JournalActa Psychologica
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Heuristics
  • Hierarchical Bayesian modeling
  • Recognition memory
  • Strategy selection


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