The influence of the picture superiority effect on performance in the word and picture form of the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test
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Background: The Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test (FCSRT) is a delayed cued recall test that controls attention and cognitive processing to obtain a measure of episodic memory that is unconfounded by normal age-related changes in cognition. Performance in the FCSRT is sensitive to the early changes in episodic memory associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There are two forms of the FCSRT: a ‘word’ form and a ‘picture’ form. This study aimed to examine whether the picture superiority effect (PSE), the phenomenon that recall of pictures is often greater than recall of words, would influence healthy adults’ performance in the word and picture form of the FCSRT and whether this effect would be equivalent in younger and older adults. Method: Eighty-two participants with no known cognitive impairments took part in the study. Using a between-subjects design, we tested for the effects of age (younger vs. older), FCSRT format (word vs. picture) and their interaction on free recall, total recall and sensitivity to cueing as measured by the FCSRT. Results: The results showed that in the participants overall, the PSE was present in free recall, total recall and sensitivity to cueing, with a higher mean performance in the picture form than in the word form of the test. When the age groups were analysed separately, the PSE was only significant in the older participants for free recall, total recall and sensitivity to cueing. This resulted in a significant interaction between age and test format in free recall. Conclusions: Participants overall performed significantly better in the picture form than in the word form of the FCSRT, therefore, those administering the test should be aware that performance in the two forms may not be directly comparable. If future research supports this observation then form-dependent cut-off scores may significantly improve the diagnostic accuracy of the FCSRT.