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Much research has found that implicit associations between Black male faces and aggression afect dispositional judgments and decision-making, but there have been few investigations into downstream efects on explicit episodic memory. The current experiment tested whether such implicit associations interact with explicit recognition memory using an associative memory paradigm in younger and older adults. Participants studied image pairs featuring faces (of Black or White males) alongside handheld objects (uncategorized, kitchenware, or weapons) and later were tested on their recognition memory for faces, objects, and face/object pairings. Younger adults were further divided into full and divided attention encoding groups. All participants then took the race faces implicit association test. Memory for image pairs was poorer than memory for individual face or object images, particularly among older adults, extending the empirical support for the age-related associative memory deficit hypothesis (Naveh-Benjamin in J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cognit 26:1170–1187, 2000) to associations between racial faces and objects. Our primary hypothesis— that older adults’ associative memory deficit would be reduced under Black/weapon pairings due to their being schematically related stimuli—was not confirmed. Younger adults and especially older ones, who were predominantly White, exhibited an own-race recognition bias. In addition, older adults showed more negative implicit bias toward Black faces. Importantly, mixed linear analyses revealed that negative implicit associations for Black faces predicted increased explicit associative memory false alarm rates among older adults. Such a pattern may have implications for the criminal justice system, particularly when weighting eyewitness testimony from older adults

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Erickson, W.B., Wright, A. & Naveh-Benjamin, M. “He was the one with the gun!” Associative memory for white and black faces seen with weapons. Cogn. Research 7, 8 (2022).

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