Off-campus WSU users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your WSU access ID and password, then click the "Off-campus Download" button below.

Non-WSU users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

John L. Woodard


Introduction: Persons with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD) show impairments in semantic and associative memory years before the onset of clinical symptoms. However, many tasks used to assess these deficits make use of previously learned stimuli, often within well-established semantic networks that may be more resistant to disease-related changes. No research has been conducted examining trained and derived relational responding (TDRR) in older adults or in the presence of AD risk factors. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a novel TDRR task would be sensitive to age-related and disease-risk cognitive changes. Method: Thirty younger adults and 15 older adults were tested on measures of processing speed, episodic memory, semantic memory, crystallized intelligence, and executive functioning. During the TDRR task, participants were taught two relations (e.g., figure-name) and asked to derive four other relations (e.g., name-house) based on prior learning. Participants were tested on each trained and derived relation. Accuracy rates and response time were obtained. Results: Overall, derived relations were identified as quickly and as accurately as trained relations. Older adults were slower and less accurate than younger adults. No differences existed between older family history + groups; however, younger adults with a family history of dementia were faster at correctly identifying relations than the family history negative group. Task performance correlated with measures of processing speed, crystallized intelligence, episodic memory, and semantic memory. Discussion: Older and younger adults were able to learn and derive novel relations quickly and accurately. Thus, the novel trained and derived relational responding task appears to be an easy, inexpensive test that may be sensitive to age-related cognitive changes and cognitive differences in young adults with a family history of dementia. In addition, this task provided an opportunity to examine the application of Relational Frame Theory, specifically trained and derived relational responding, as it applies to age- and disease-related cognitive changes. While future research is needed with a larger sample, this study offers promising preliminary results in identifying age-related and possibly disease risk-related cognitive changes.

Off-campus Download