Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Upton I 139
Aging/Cognitive psychology/Upton: (…) elderly adults have been found to perform more poorly than younger adults on Piagetian cognitive tasks (>Stages of development/Piaget), for example (Blackburn and Papalia, 1992)(1). However, there is some debate about the extent to which this decline is an inevitable part of ageing. It has been proposed, for example, that this difference is actually caused by a cohort effect, brought about because the older adults who participated in these studies generally had less formal schooling than most younger adults today.
(…) other studies that have taken a longitudinal approach have found that cognitive skills either stay stable or improve over time (Salthouse. 2009)(2).
This idea is also supported by studies that have shown that older adults in college perform as well as their younger classmates on cognitive tests (Blackburn. 1985)(1). However, it has also been suggested that cognitive decline actually begins in early adulthood (Salthouse, 2009)(2), although not all aspects of cognitive functioning are thought to show early age-related declines.
Upton I 140
Decline of cognitive skills: ttraining studies, (…) have shown that cognitive decline in older people can be reversed in many cases (Blaskewicz Boron et al., 2007)((3). Perhaps cognitive decline is caused by a lack of use? This is what Bielak (2010)(4) calls the fuse it or lose it’ hypothesis of cognitive ageing.
Def crystalized abilities: the information, knowledge and skills that are acquired through experience in a cultural environment. [They] are consistently found to increase until at least the age of 60.
Def fluid abilitites: fluid abilities fluid intelligence or fluid reasoning is the ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. It is the ability to analyse novel problems, identify patterns and relationships that underpin these problems and so find a solution using logic.
One of the largest studies of age-related changes in functioning, the Seattle Longitudinal Study (e.g. Schaie, 2006(5); Willis and Schaie, 2006)(6), has suggested that there is no uniform pattern of age-related changes across all intellectual abilities. The study findings suggest that both cohort and age effects are important in determining changes in cognitive ability across the lifespan. This body of work also confirms the trend observed by Salthouse (2009)(2) that, in general, crystallized abilities tend to decline later than fluid abilities in intelligence.
Upton I 141
A number of factors have also been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in old age, including the absence of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases (Wendell et al., 2009)(7); higher socio-economic status (Fotenos et al., 2008)(8); and involvement in a complex and intellectually stimulating environment (Valenzuela et al., 2007)(9). It has also been suggested that the modern sedentary lifestyle may increase the ageing process; evidence from the British cohort study has shown that maintaining an active lifestyle can help to slow the process of cognitive decline linked to ageing (Richards et al.. 2003)(10).



1. Blackburn, JA and Papalia, DE (1992) The study of adult cognition from a Piagetian perspective, in Sternberg, RJ and Berg, CA (eds) Intellectual Development. New York: Cambridge University Press.
2. Salthouse, TA (2009) When does age-related cognitive decline begin? Neurobiology of Aging,
30: 507-14.
3. Blaskewicz Boron, J, Turiano, NA, Willis, SL and Schaie, KW (2007) Effects of cognitive training on change in accuracy in inductive reasoning ability. Journal of Gerontology, 6 2(3): 179-86.
4. Bielak, AM (2010) How can we not ‘lose it’ if we still don’t understand how to use it’? Unanswered questions about the influence of activity participation on cognitive performance in older age: a mini-review. Gerontology, 56: 507-19.
5. Schaie. KW (2006) Inteffigence, in Schultz, R (ed.) Encyclopedia of Aging (4th edn). New York:
Springer.
6. Willis, SL and Schaie, KW (2006) Cognitive functioning among the baby boomers: longitudinal and cohort effects, in Whitbourne, SK and Willis, SL (eds) The Baby Boomers. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.
7. Wendell, C, Zonderman, A, Metter, J, Najjar, SS and Waldstein, SR (2009) Carotid intimal medial thickness predicts cognitive decline among adults without clinical vascular disease. Stroke,40: 3-180.
8. Fotenos, AF, Mintun, MA, Synder, AZ, Morris,JC and Buckner, RL (2008) Brain volume decline in aging: evidence for a relation between socioeconomic status, preclinical Alzheimer disease, and reserve. Neurology, 6 5(1): 113-20.
9. Valenzuela, M, Breakspear, M and Sachdev, P (2007) Complex mental activity and the aging brain: molecular, cellular and cortical network mechanisms. Brain Research Reviews, 56: 198-
213.
10. Richards, M, Hardy, R and Wadsworth, ME (2003) Does active leisure protect cognition? Evidence from a national birth cohort. Social Science and Medicine, 56:785-92.

Further reading:
Kitchener, KS, Lynch, CL, Fischer, KW and Wood, PK (1993) Developmental range of reflective judgment: the effect of contextual support and practice on developmental stage. Developmental Psychology, 29:893-906. Available online at https :/ /gseweb.harvard.edu/ -ddl/articles Copy! Kitchener-etal 1993 DevRangeReflectjudgem.pdf.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Cognitive Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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