Intact verbal paired-associate learning in alcoholics
Yohman, J.R.; Parsons, O.A.
Journal of Clinical Psychology 41(6): 844-851
Evidence for impaired verbal learning/memory in alcoholics is inconsistent. In part, this may be due to variations in task parameters such as difficulty level. The latter was varied in a paired-associate paradigm with 60 chronic male alcoholics abstinent 1 month and 60 nonalcoholic matched controls. Each subject was presented four lists with seven pairs of stimulus-response combinations of word meaningfulness of high-high, low-high, high-low and low-low values. The more difficult lists resulted in greater errors for both groups, but the predicted relative impairment of alcoholics with more difficult material did not occur, nor did the groups' learning curves differ. Under our experimental conditions, rote associative learning either remains intact or recovers satisfactorily with 1 month of abstinence in alcoholics. The results emphasize the importance of methodological variables and suggest restrictions on current generalizations about cognitive impairment in alcoholics.