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Chapter 6

PSYC 357 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Long-Term Memory, Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Standardized Test

Course Code
PSYC 357
Wendy Thornton

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Researchers within the information processing perspective regard the cognitive functioning of humans as
comparable to the functioning of a computer
Psychomotor Speed
Theories about changes in the overall quality of information processing in adulthood are based on studies of
psychomotor speed
- Amount of time it takes to process a signal, prepare a response and then execute that response
Why do reaction times slow as people ace?
- General slowing hypothesis: the increase in reaction time reflects general decline of information
processing speed within the nervous system of the aging individual
o Derived through examinations of cross-sectional studies on reaction times
o Reaction times of older adults plotted against that of younger adults on a graph called a brinley plot
o Results: older adults perform at similar speeds on tasks completed relatively quick by young adults
(500ms) but on tasks that take longer for young adults (1000ms), older adults take proportionately
longer (1500-2000ms)
- Age complexity hypothesis: proposes that through slowing of central processes in the nervous system,
age differences increase as tasks become more complex and processing resources are stretched more
and more to their limit
Attention involves the ability to focus or concentrate on a portion of experience while ignoring other features of that
experience, to be able to shift that focus as demanded by the situation, and to be able to coordinate information
from multiple sources
Theories of Attention and Aging
* studies on aging and attentional performance suggest that not all abilities decline (ex: although older adults are
slower when processing information from visual displays, they can remember the location of an item presented in
the display and may even be more efficient at this than younger adults)
* Performance on certain attentional tasks (ex: stroop task) can be improved with practice, regardless of age
Types of Attentional Tasks
- Dividing the focus of attention between multiple items
- Experiments that attempt to replicate this real-life situation use a dual task paradigm (also called a divided
attention task), in which the individual is given information fro two input sources and must attend to both
sources at once to identify a target
- Most people are disadvantaged when it comes to multitasking and this disadvantage increases
progressively with age
- Older adults compensate for attentional deficits under multitasking conditions by shifting activation of
regions of the brain involved in attentional processing (ex: reduce activity in frontal regions, responsible for
planning, and increase activity in regions involved in the storage of visual and spatial information)
Inhibitory Task
- The individual must deliberately suppress one response in order to perform another
- Purpose: to determine whether older adults are able to ignore aspects of a stimulus that are irrelevant
Attentional resources
Inhibitory deficit hypothesis
Context processing deficiency hypothesis
- aging reduces available
cognitive resources (older
adults have less energy
- aging reduces ability to tune
out irrelevant information
- implies that older adults focus
most effectively when
distractions are minimized
- aging reduces the ability to take context into account
- proposes that older adults are particularly affected when
they must remember the task instructions because they have
fewer resources to devote to a task when they must
constantly remind themselves of when they are supposed to
make their response
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