Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Adams-Price, Carolyn E.

Committee Member

Engelland, Brian T.

Committee Member

Eakin, Deborah K.

Committee Member

Giesen, J. Martin

Committee Member

Henley, Tracy B.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Cognitive Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


Prescription drug advertisements are commonly seen in magazines and on television, and as a result, the public is familiar with them. Many drug ads are targeted toward older adults, who tend to use more medications, because they suffer from more chronic conditions than younger adults. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of drug advertising at persuading older adults to ask physicians for specific medications remains uncertain. Older adults’ explicit memory for drug ads is poor, but their implicit memory for drug ads may be better. Therefore, older adults may be implicitly persuaded by drug ads even when they cannot explicitly remember seeing them. The current study measured implicit memory with an incidental ratings exercise and an indirect test of preference; explicit memory was measured with intentional studying and a direct test of recognition. The purposes of the study were to compare implicit and explicit memory for drug ads in older and younger adults, to determine whether age differences in memory are affected by salient information or anxiety, and to demonstrate that a test of implicit memory may be useful in estimating advertising effectiveness. The results showed no age difference for implicit memory for drug ads, but an age difference was found for explicit memory for drug ads. However, contrary to hypotheses, neither salient information nor anxiety had an effect on implicit or explicit memory. The results were consistent with previous research demonstrating implicit memory in the absence of explicit memory. Although older adults had slightly worse explicit memory, both implicit and explicit memory for drug ads was generally good in both groups. The results were also obtained within the everyday context of prescription drug advertising, which extends memory research to an important real-world setting. Ethical considerations for research on aging and advertising are discussed. Drug ads are designed to be persuasive, but ads should be carefully designed to inform consumers, rather than to manipulate them. The implicit memory manipulation succeeded in demonstrating that ads are persuasive, suggesting that a complete assessment of advertising effectiveness should include a test of implicit memory.