Autobiographical memory tests provide a naturalistic counterpoint to the artificiality of laboratory research methods, yet autobiographical events are uncontrolled and, in most cases, unverifiable. In this study, we capitalised on a scripted, complex naturalistic event – the mask
fit test (MFT), a standardised procedure required of hospital employees – to bridge the gap between naturalistic and laboratory memory assessment. We created a test of recognition memory for the MFT and administered it to 135 hospital employees who had undertaken the MFT at various points
over the past five years. Multivariate analysis revealed two dimensions defined by accuracy and response bias. Accuracy scores showed the expected relationship to encoding-test delay, supporting the validity of this measure. Relative to younger adults, older adults’ memory for this naturalistic
event was better than would be predicted from the cognitive ageing literature, a result consistent with the notion that older adults’ memory performance is enhanced when stimuli are naturalistic and personally relevant. These results demonstrate that testing recognition memory for a
scripted event is a viable method of studying autobiographical memory.
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