PSY402/F2012/Week 7/YANG 1
PSY402: Adult Development
Week 7, Fall 2012
Basic Cognitive Functions, Reading: Chapter 6
Cognition: Information processing
o Attention and Aging?
o Theories of Attention and Aging
o Memory and Aging?
o Moderators for Age Differences in Memory
Cognition: The collection of mental processes used in processing information, including
perceiving, remembering, and thinking.
Cognition: Information Processing Model
The General Slowing Hypothesis (Salthouse): The increase in reaction time in
older adults reflects a general decline of information processing speed within the
nervous system of the aging brain
Is it just about speed?
o Pro: Age differences on many tasks are reduced when scores on speed tasks
are controlled for.
Not clear whether age-related slowing is the CAUSE of other deficits (correlation
Sometimes older people are slower because they are responding more
o The process that rapidly registers new incoming information.
o A very brief and almost identical representation (or afterimage) of the stimuli.
Very short duration
No age differences
Information Processing Model: Attentional bottleneck
SENSORY STORE -> SELECTIVE FILTER -> DETECTOR -> LTM
Cognition (I): Attention
ATTENTION AND AGING
Selective Attention: The ability to selectively attend to important information while
ignoring irrelevant information; Inhibition/interference tasks PSY402/F2012/Week 7/YANG 2
Selective Reading and Aging: Older adults’ reading times are more slowed down
than young adults by the presence of distracting information (Connelly, Hasher, &
Stroop Effect and Aging – Inhibitory attention task (must disassociate reading
of the word from naming of the colour): The Stroop interference effect: Older
(green) > Young (purple)
Selective Attention and Aging
o Older adults tend to perform worse on selective attention tasks
o Larger interference effect for older than for young adults in selective reading and
Divided Attention: The ability to successfully perform more than one task or attend
to multiple stimuli at the same time: Dual-Task Paradigm
Divided Attention and Aging
o Older adults tend to show greater divided attention costs, Especially for difficult
o Practice and experience can decrease age differences in divided attention
Sustained Attention (Vigilance): The ability to sustain attention on a task for long
periods of time. (e.g., air traffic controller); Sustained Attention Test
Sustained Attention and Aging
o Older adults tend to show deficits in vigilance performance (miss more targets or
taking longer time to detect targets).
o But not in vigilance decrement: Drop in performance over time
THEORIES OF ATTENTION AND AGING
Attentional Resources Theory (Craik)
o Aging reduces available cognitive resources.
o Attention as a process reflecting the allocation of cognitive resources.
o As cognitive load increases, performance decreases
Inhibitory Deficit Hypothesis (Hahser and Zacks)
o Aging reduces ability to tune out irrelevant information
o Older adults are less effective at inhibiting irrelevant information.
o More “mental clutter”
Context Processing Deficiency (Braver et al).
o Aging reduces the ability to take context into account
o Example: older adults are less efficient in using the context of information
processing in sustained attention tasks
o Older adults have difficulty balancing remembering task instructions with
performance of the task PSY402/F2012/Week 7/YANG 3
Summary: Attention and Aging
Attention and Aging
o Selective: Inhibition tasks - STROOP (larger interference)
o Divided: DUAL-TASK PARADIGM (larger cost)
o Sustained: decline in vigilance performance, but not in vigilance decrement
Explanations for age differences in attention
o Attentional resources
o Inhibitory deficit
o Context processing deficiency
Cognition (II): Memory
MEMORY: Information-Processing Approach
o Memory: ability to retain or store information and retrieve it when needed.
o Memory System: a complex, dynamic system of processes and storehouses
Memory Processes: 3-step filling system
Encoding: the process of getting information into the memory system
o Intentional encoding declines, whereas incidental encoding does not change
Storage: the manner in which information is represented and kept in memory
o Little empirical evidence for age differences in how information is organized and
o Older adults do suffer from increased “storage failures”, like vague memory trace.
Retrieval: getting information back out of memory
o Recall and recognition
o Age-related decrement is larger in recall than in recognition (Craik & McDowd,
Summary: Age Differences in Memory Processes
o Older adults are less effective than younger adults in encoding and retrieval.
o Intentional, but not incidental encoding, declines with aging.
o Possibly increased storage failures with aging
o Larger decline in recall than in recognition with aging
MEMORY STOREHOUSES: STM
Short-Term Memory: Capacity
o STM has limited capacity: 5 - 9 items (Miller, 1956)
o Chunking: The process of organizing items into meaningful groups
Memory Storehouses: STM
o Short Duration
o Limited Capacity PSY402/F2012/Week 7/YANG 4
o Primary Memory (holding)
o Working Memory (processing + holding)
Working Memory (WM)
o Holding information in STM while carrying out other mental activities
o Limited-capacity system for simultaneous storage and manipulation of
information (Baddeley, 2000)
Working Memory Model (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974)
PHONOLOGICAL LOOP (ARTICULATORY PROCESSES+PHONOLOGICAL
STORE) + VISUOSPATIAL SCRATCH PAD + EPISODIC BUFFER + CENTRAL
How Does Aging Affect STM/WM?
o STM/Storage: Primary Memory (e.g., digit span): small or no age differences;
o WM = Storage + Manipulation (e.g., operation span): Significant age-related
decline; Recognition much better than recall
MEMORY STOREHOUSES: LTM
o Unlimited duration
o Unlimited capacity
Non-Declarative (implicit) memory:
o Procedural memory (skills a