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Chapter 6

SOC375 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Cosmic View, Intel 8089, Mental Disorder

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Kwame Boadu

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Chapter 6 The Psychology and Social Psychology of Aging
- I the asee of disease, hages i a olde peso’s eo should ause o poles i eeda life
o Both young and old forget things, but older people notice it more because they expect memory loss to
come with age
- 2 things research has learned about older people and memory:
o A large proportion of older people believe they have memory problems
o Memory failure upsets them, even if they forget something unimportant people fear that memory loss
could lead to a loss of independence
People fear memory loss more than almost any other effect of aging
- On some measures, mental ability may decrease with age, but on others it can improve
o Dramatic declines in mental functioning are due to physiological disorders/distress, not to normal aging
Normal Changes in Psychological Functioning
- The brain changes with age in general, it shrinks, loses neurons, and develops abnormalities, but the brain
adapts to these changes, even grows new neurons
- Latency- the length of time it takes a person to process information or respond to a question
o Older people take longer to:
learn new information
search for it in memory
use it when they need it
- Strong interest in memory and aging because:
o Popular stereotypes predict a decline in memory with age if this is true, studies of memory can trace
the cause of this decline
o Memory can be studied in the lab under controlled conditions makes research relatively easy
o Studies of memory have produced testable models of how the mind works models attempt to explain
complex processes (ex. learning, forgetting, etc.)
o New brain imaging techniques allow the study of the chemical and electrical functions of the brain
o Increasing number of people with Alzheie’s has led to geater public awareness (and fear) of memory
loss has led researchers to look for the differences between normal and pathological changes in the
brain in later life
Memory and Intelligence
- Memory and intelligence decline with age, but different types of memory and intelligence show different
amounts of change
o Sometimes because of the time people take to respond to a question, people assume that the older
person is slow and incompetent so answer for them a also lead to eldespeak
- Memory- the recall of information after learning takes place
o Memory models help them to identify the variables that cause memory loss
- Information-processing model of memory
o Sensory memory- information perceived through the senses and stored as memory
o Short-term memory- where info is stoed tepoail hile it’s being processed, or for a short time
o Long-term memory- the storehouse of knowledge that also includes the rules for applying knowledge
Lab Studies
- Lab studies done to try and understand memory decline/loss where most formal measurements of memory
take place; declines occur in:
o Non-episodic (semantic) memory- memory oriented toward the present of the future with with no
reference to the time at which the person stored the (ex. general knowledge)
o Episodic memory- memory oriented toward the past, or acquired at specific time and place
Episodic memory shows a greater decline with age than other types of memory
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Controversy over when the decline begins some say as early as 20s/30s
- Encoding- the process whereby a person puts new bits of information together with already stored information
o Older adults show a slower speed of encoding
o Older people have difficulty in ignoring distracting information during encoding; they have trouble
ignoring irrelevant stimuli, and they have less ability to control distraction
o Work put into encoding leads to better response at recall memory decline in older adults may be due
in part to the use of inefficient processing techniques
- Working memory- where recent acquired information is aipulated ad poessed at the sae tie it’s eig
stored temporarily
o Older people show deficits in working memory (ex. an earlier task slows a later activity)
2 or more messages find it difficult to let go of the irrelevant message and attend to the
relevant one
Trouble ignoring irrelevant stimuli leads to decreased mental performance
Poor distraction control underlies some of the declines seen in working memory
Inability to switch from one task to another
Slower processing accounts for the loss of info from an earlier task as a person performs a more
recent task
- The rate of decline or the extent of the deficit varies among individuals
- The ability to multitask also declines with age
- Poessig speed aloe does’t eplai age-related changes in mental activity
Physical Changes as the Source of Mental Decline
- Changes in the physiology of the brain lead to cognitive decline
o Hippocampus (processes info and create LTMs) declines in function with age
o Disruption in chemical pathways leads to decline in prefrontal cortex function, resulting in attention
deficit (also called cognitive performance)
- Loss of brain structure (loss of grey and white matter in the brain) leads to declines in mental function
- Sensory decline serves as a measure of brain integrity and has a strong impact on all cognitive abilities
declines in visual and auditory ability explained nearly all age-related declines on a series of psychological tests
o Poits to a oo set of auses that lead deease the ai’s stutual and functional integrity
- Have also studied genetics, cellular function, and brain physiology to understand mental performance show
the growing interests among psychologists in the effects of biology and physiology on mental functioning
New Approaches to the Study of Mental Function
- Neuroimaging (MRI and PET) studies show that the brain compensates for losses by continuous functional
repairs and reorganization reveals an adaptive brain that seeks to maintain homeostatic cognitive function
- Older peoples’ ais euit oe pats of the ai to help with mental processing
o “uggests that olde adults’ eual futio is dai ad that plastiit eais i the euoogitie
system in late adulthood
- Ne ie of ai is as dai, ostatl eogaizig, ad alleale, ot fied ad igid
o Flexibility in brain function points to a mental reserve capacity
o Some mental processes decline, but the older brain compensates for their losses helps explain the
variability of cognitive decline among older people
Plasticity and Cognitive Reserve
- Histoiall elieed that the ai’s euos ee lost fo ith oads – seemed to explain the decline in
mental function over time
o But most recent research shows that the body not only preserves brain cells, but it can create new
neurons and neuronal connections at every age neurogenesis
The brain reorganizes itself in response to new information and experience at any age
New brain cells grow in later life
The ai’s eotioal centers grow more balanced with age
Compared with younger people, older people use both halves of the brain more equally
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o We now know that the brain rewires connections in response to demands
- Plasticity- the ai’s ailit to hage ad adapt oe tie
o Neurons remain healthy until you die; body preserves and generates new brain cells
o This protects the person from the decline due to aging and from diseases of the brain
o Similar-aged older people vary in their mental ability
- Cognitive reserve-refers to exceptional mental performance, particularly when a (normal) person has to work at
maximum mental capacity; first observed in cognitively impaired people (dementia) who performed better than
expected in everyday life - in brain function, points to a mental reserve capacity
o Intelligence, education, an active, stimulating lifestyle, genetic makeup, or a physically larger brain
provide a reserve capacity protects the person from the decline due to aging and from brain diseases
“toe oe ifo; akes thei ais stoge
o Peso’s atie ole i deelopig ogitie esee
- Research on plasticity and cognitive reserve comes to some of the same conclusions:
1. Both ephasize the peso’s atie ole i deelopig a esee ad opesatig fo losses
2. Individual differences in reserve capacity
3. Prior life experiences (ex. education) influence reserve
4. Limits to plasticity and reserve
5. Person can enhance plasticity and reserve
The Limits of Lab Research on Memory
- Factors other than age can account for differences in memory found in lab studies (ex. educational background,
verbal ability, etc. influence results in memory research)
- Test conditions ifluee olde sujets’ eo test pefoae
o Stereotype threat- refers to an older peso’s fea of failure on memory tests which leads to poor
performance may lead to exaggerated findings of memory decline in older people
o Supportive environment important (ex. prior knowledge of the type of questions, educational
Can improve their performance
- Design flaws (especially in cross-sectional studies) in study can skew data and lead to exaggerated findings
- Memory studies done under lab conditions have poor ecological validity (generalizability)
The Contextual Approach
- Contextual view of memory- the idea that many conditions influence memory, including physical, psychological,
and social contexts and the knowledge, abilities, and characteristics of the individual, as well as the situation in
which the individual is asked to remember
- Epets ithi a doai e. hess ae ultiatel ale to pefo ell the skills the’e alas patied
- Lak of eduatio o etai tasks e. tehologial oes affet olde peoples’ poo pefoae
o Task-related knowledge/experience help older subjects compensate for decreases in processing speed
Lifetime of accumulated knowledge remains available to older adults
- Lists/notes technique takes the loaf of working memory and frees the mind for other demands
o Can improve memory/performance
- Older people can outperform younger people in studies of prospective memory the ability to remember
something to be done in the future
o Older people may use external devices to assist their memory, but even without the use of memory
aids, older people do well at remembering to do things in the future
- Studies looking directly at what older people remember about the world around them found less of the memory
deficit reported in lab research
o Semantic memory the store of factual info shows little decline with age
Only after age 90 do decreases in world knowledge appear
o Older people also have good memories for past personal events
- Very important aspect of understanding about memory changes as we age
Training the Mind for Improved Performance
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