Measuring Associative Memory


  • Zoja Anžur University of Ljubljana
  • Grega Rodman University of Ljubljana
  • Ana Špacapan University of Ljubljana
  • Nika Pogorelc University of Ljubljana
  • Anja Podlesek University of Ljubljana


Associative memory (AM) is the ability to learn connections between semantically unrelated items [1]. AM has been researched in the past, however, there is a problem with its assessment. Namely, the currently validated tests assess it by instructing the participants to memorize connections between faces and words, as indicated in the examples, provided in [1]. These stimuli are not culturally neutral; thus, we don't have a culturally universal test for measuring AM. This can affect the results, obtained in different cultural environments. The aim of our research, therefore, is to create and validate a culturally universal test for assessing AM. We will also conduct some additional tests with the aim to further explore AM.

Our project is part of a larger international study. Our first task was to translate the original test (developed by the leading team) and adjust the included survey for gathering demographic data. This was done to adhere to the characteristics of our sample. The first part of the test is designed to measure explicit and the second part implicit memory. The explicit memory task consists of a learning phase, where the participants are exposed to images of as universally recognizable objects as possible (e.g., keys, a banana, bicycle) paired with images of natural scenes (e.g., fields, roads). In this way we will try to ensure cultural universality of the test, even though we are aware that not one stimulus is truly culturally neutral. In the second phase, we assess whether the participants have correctly remembered the combinations of visual stimuli. After a period of rest, the participants continue to the implicit memory task, where they are asked to make animacy judgments about presented objects. As mentioned, we also developed additional tests, namely for attention, mind wandering, and visual memory. We did this to further support the test’s validation focusing on the possible connections with AM. We aim to collect a minimum of 150 data samples from the student population. Data will be gathered by online applications without the presence of an experimenter. Moreover, we will provide the participants with thorough instructions.

Our project is at a stage of data gathering. We expect to successfully validate the test. Furthermore, we expect to find that AM positively correlates with visual memory and attention. We expect to find a negative correlation between AM and mind wandering. Considering all participants will be students, our results could be affected by the lack of populational representability. Another limitation of our study is the length of the experiment, as it lasts approximately one hour. Due to the resulting tiredness the participants could underperform on the tasks.


[1] A. Mayes, D. Montaldi, and E. Migo, »Associative memory and the medial temporal lobes«, Cognitive Computation, vol. 11, no. 3, Mar., pp. 126–135, 2007. [Online serial]. Available: /10.1016/j.tics.2006.12.003 [Accessed May 15, 2022].