Skip to main content Accessibility help

Methodological considerations in estimating speed of cognitive operations

  • James T. Becker (a1) (a2), Rocco Caldararo (a1), Alan D. Baddeley (a3), Mary Amanda Dew (a1) (a4) (a5), William C. Heindel (a6), Gordon Banks (a2), Stanley K. Dorst (a7) and Oscar L. Lopez (a1) (a2)...


Individuals infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and having cognitive impairment have been described as having slow mentation. Data supporting this proposition come from a variety of sources, including Sternberg's (1966) item recognition memory task. The procedure nominally provides an index of speed of mental operations, independent from input/output demands. However, since the original use of this procedure in the 1960s, advances in cognitive psychology have revealed many of its limitations. The purpose of the present study was to examine the psychometric characteristics of this task. Each participant performed the Sternberg item recognition task twice, 6 mo apart. The stability of the estimate of the slope of regression equations and for zero intercept ranged from excellent (r = .87) to poor (r = .30), and the data from many individual subjects could not be reliably modelled using multiple linear regression techniques. These data, as well as those from previous research, demonstrate the limited practical use of this task in clinical samples. Furthermore, as cognitive psychological theory has advanced in the past 30 yr, the conceptual underpinnings of the procedure have essentially evaporated. (JINS, 1995, 1, 3–9).



Hide All
Baddeley, A.D. & Ecob, J.R. (1973). Reaction time and short-term memory: Implications of repetition effects for the high speed exhaustive scan hypothesis. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 25, 229240.
Becker, J.T., Dew, M.A., Dorst, S.K., Banks, G., & Lopez, O.L. (1993). Neuropsychological abnormalities in HIV-infected men seeking primary medical care. Paper presented at the Neuroscience of HIV Infection Conference, Vienna, Austria.
Dosher, B.A., McElree, B., Hood, R.M., & Rosedale, G. (1989). Retrieval dynamics of priming in recognition memory: Bias and discrimination analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 15(5), 868886.
Grant, I., Atkinson, J.H., & Hesselink, J.R. (1988). Human immunodeficiency virus-associated neurobehavioral disorder. Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London, 22, 149157.
Grant, I., Caun, K., Kingsley, D.P.E., Winer, J., Trimble, M.R., & Pinching, A.J. (1992). Neuropsychological and NMR abnormalities in HIV infection: The St. Mary's-Queen Square study. Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Behavioral Neurology, 5, 185193.
Hart, R.P., Wade, J.B., Klinger, R.L., & Hamer, R.M. (1990). Slowed information processing as an early cognitive change associated with HIV infection. Neuropsychology, 4, 97104.
Martin, E.M., Robertson, L.C., Sorensen, D.J., Jagust, W.J., Mallon, K.F., & Chirugi, V.A. (1993). Speed of memory scanning is not affected in early HIV-1 infection. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 15(2), 311320.
Miller, E.N., Satz, P., & Visscher, B. (1991). Computerized and conventional neuropsychological assessment of HIV1- infected homosexual men. Neurology, 41, 16081616.
Monsell, S. (1978). Recency, immediate recognition memory, and reaction time. Cognitive Psychology, 10, 465501.
Navia, B.A., Cho, E.-S., Petito, C.K., & Price, R.W. (1986). The AIDS dementia complex: II. Neuropathology. Annals of Neurology, 19, 525535.
Olsen, W.L., Longo, F.M., Mills, C.M., & Norman, D. (1988). White matter disease in AIDS: Findings at MR imaging. Radiology, 169, 445448.
Rafal, R.D., Posner, M.I., Walker, J.A., & Friedrich, F.J. (1984). Cognition and the basal ganglia: Separating mental and motor components of performance in Parkinson's disease. Brain, 107, 10831094.
Rao, S.M., StAubin-Faubert, P., & Leo, C.J. (1989). Information processing speed in patients with multiple sclerosis. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 11, 471477.
Schweickert, R. (1993). Information, time, and the structure of mental events: A twenty-five year review. In Meyer, D.E. & Kornblum, S. (Eds.), Attention and Performance XIV: Synergies in Experimental Psychology, Artificial Intelligence & Cognitive Neuroscience: A Silver Jubilee Volume (pp. 535566). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Sternberg, S. (1966). High speed scanning in human memory. Science, 153, 652654.
Sternberg, S. (1967a). Retrieval of contextual information from memory. Psychonomic Science, 8(2), 5558.
Sternberg, S. (1967b). Two operations in character recognition: Some evidence from reaction-time measurements. Perception & Psychophysics, 2, 4550.
Sternberg, S. (1975). Memory scanning: New findings and current controversies. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 27, 132.
Stout, J.C., Taylor, M.J., Peavy, G.M., Ryan, L., Butters, N., Salmon, D.P., Chandler, J.L., Atkinson, H., & Grant, 1. (1993). Declines in Working Memory associated with HIV infection. Paper presented at the 1993 International Conference on AIDS, Berlin, Germany.
Wilkie, F.L., Eisdorfer, C., Morgan, R., & Loewenstein, D.A. (1990). Cognition in early Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection. Archives of Neurology, 47, 433440.
Wilson, R.S., Kaszniak, A.W., Klawans, H.L., & Garron, D.C. (1980). High speed memory scanning in parkinsonism. Cortex, 16, 6772.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed