Health Psychology – Chapter 7: Cognitive & Physical Aging
COGNITION refers to sensation, perception, and thought as distinct from feeling
SENSATION ▯the term for our awareness of detected patterns
PERCEPTION ▯the cognitive system that holds some sensations in memory long
enough for comparison with concurrent and subsequent sensations
THOUGHT ▯the cognitive system operates on the perceptions by comparing
them with perceptions experienced seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, years, and
even decades before, the residues of which still endure within the brain
MEMORY ▯The term for the residues of previous cognitive processing stored
within the brain.
Memories fall into two main categories: memories of information processed at a
particular time, known as memories for episodes; memories integrated into
composite structures not specifically related to particular episodes, which fall
under the rubric of knowledge
Positive influences include experiences that accumulate with age and knowledge
that accumulates with experience
AGING AND THE SENSORY SYSTEM
VISION: two kinds of change occur at different ages. Changes in the outer parts
of the eye, such as the cornea and lens, begin to occur in many people between
3545 years of age. The second kind of change affects the retina within the eye
and occurs mainly in people aged 55+ years
Peripheral changes include a loss of flexibility in the lens resulting in a decrease
in the eye’s ability to change shape to view objects at different distances – termed
a difficulty in accommodation. This problem particularly affects vision for objects
close to the eye, a condition termed presbyopia, which is why the first of glasses
usually acquired by people with previously normal vision are reading glasses
There is also a yellowing of the lens with age. This change results in a reduction
in the amount and quality of light passing through the lens to reach the retina.
older people need more illumination to view objects than do younger people, with
color constancy maintained by compensatory mechanisms.
the number of people requiring visual correction increases with age. fewer than
50% of people in any cohort up to 44 years of age require corrective devises. In
older cohorts, the proportion of people who require corrective devises rises to
80% or more
HEARING: begins to be noticeable by midlife. one person in five had hearing
difficulties between the ages 4554 years, compared with threequarters of the
population aged over 75 years, with the rates higher for males than females.
he main cause is damage to the cochlea, which is the main neural receptor. This
damage includes a loss of hair cells, which are the ear’s equivalent to retinal cells
in the eye, and problems of metabolism within the inner ear
presbycusis (a loss of reception of high frequency sounds) and tinnitus (the
presence of highpitched background noise that distracts and annoys those
afflicted) the main problem associated with hearing loss is the reduced ability to understand
speech, which often leads to feelings of social isolation with its concomitant
dilemma. Various difficulties increased with age in the following order
o normal speech
o rapid speech
o listening to one speaker among many
o listening to speech in the presence of reverberation or echo
o listening to interrupted speech
TASTE & SMELL: slight decline in latelife, with some suggestion that
sensitivity to sweet and salty tastes shows greater loss than sensitivity to bitter and
sour 78 tastes.
TOUCH, TEMPERATURE & PAIN: vibrotactile sensitivity (i.e., the ability to
feel vibrations) declined substantially with age, especially with high frequency
stimulation. Losses in temperature sensitivity also occur with age (Stevens, Cruz,
Marks, & Lakatos, 1998), which may put older people at risk to hypothermia in
cold Canadian winters. Confounds in the naturalistic study of pain include the
involvement of personality and emotion – not just the painful stimulus – and the
greater susceptibility of older people to disease and disability associated with pain
KINESTHESIS: Kinesthesis refers to awareness of the body’s positioning as it
moves through space. Low kinesthesis has implications for poor gait and balance,
and a higher susceptibility to falls.
AGING AND MEMORY
SENSORY MEMORY: This store holds information received from the
environment for a very brief interval. The terms for memory traces associated
with different sensory systems include icons if the information is visual and
echoes if auditory. long enough for processing and subsequent transfer to a store
of longer duration.
SHORTTERM MEMORY: long enough for processing and subsequent transfer
to a store of longer duration. It corresponds to the time information resides in
consciousness while being processed for transfer to longterm memory. A
distinction made between types of shortterm memory includes PRIMARY
MEMORY and WORKING MEMORY, with the former referring to passive
storage and the latter to active manipulation of information.
PRIMARY MEMORY: Digits Forward subtest of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence
Scale (WAIS; Wechsler, 1958), in which performance is the longest sequence of
digits a respondent is able to recall after a single auditory presentation. Most
people are able to recall a string of 68 digits, with no appreciable decline until
very late in life except in cases of pathology affecting cognition
WORKING MEMORY: mental manipulation of the information in consciousness
into a form appropriate for longterm storage. An example is the Digits Backward
subtest on 711 he WAIS, in which the respondent recalls the presented sequence
in reverse order.
further evidence that working memory declines with age in both crosssectional
and longitudinal research paradigms. However, the reasons for this deterioration
remain unclear. Salthouse and Babcock (1991) suggest that the deficiency may
reside in processing rather than capacity or storage. LONGTERM MEMORY: a large capacity storage system in which memories
reside over prolonged durations. There are four main categories of longterm
o * Episodic memory refers to the remembering of discrete events;
o * Semantic memory includes knowledge about concepts or events not
necessarily associated with a single episode of acquisition (e.g., the
provinces of Canada);
o * Procedural memory involves the retention of skill (e.g., driving);
o * Prospective memory is remembering to do something at a future time
among older people with mild cognitive impairment (i.e., impairment less severe
than reported in cases of dementia), episodic memory is the only facet to show
significant decline over a 4year period. In a recognition task, Parkin and Walter
(1992) provided evidence that while younger people report that they remember
items previously presented, older people more often report knowing that the items
were present. This distinction between remembering and knowing appears to
relate to retrieval from episodic and semantic memory, respectively.
The process of acquisition relates to the kinds of activity performed in working
memory. Older people can organize material for later retrieval as effectively as
young people do
when taught mnemonic (i.e., 713 memorizing) techniques to aid retrieval, the
recall of older people improves. These findings suggest that older people are
indeed able to learn new ways of learning.
Shonfield and Robertson (1966) were the first to show that the loss with age in the
recall of information is less than the age loss in recognition of that information.
One reason for this discrepancy may be that recall invokes only episodic memory
whereas recognition brings semantic memory into play.
older adults have a higher frequency of autobiographical memories for the period
from 1030 years of age than for any other period. Fitzgerald (1988) found that
especially vivid memories by older people dated from a period of late adolescence
to early adulthood.
Bahrick and Wittlinger (1975) studied memory for high school classmates, the
accuracy of which they checked against corresponding high school yearbooks.
Their findings indicated that recall fell sharply during the three years since
leaving school, but remained consistently above 60% until twentyfive years after
graduation, after which time it continued to decline. Name and picture recognition
showed minimal decline for thirtyfour years after graduation, consistently
remaining at about 90%, after which it declined steeply. These findings suggest
that although distortion and inaccuracies may be present in longterm 715
memory, memories from late adolescence persist with considerable accuracy for
decades after the event.
METAMEMORY ▯knowledge and beliefs about memory, including a person’s
older people more frequently have negative evaluations of their memory,
compared with young adults, report more memory failures, and expect to perform
worse in memory testing. The main age difference in metamemory concerns selfefficacy, which refers to
beliefs about one’s own memory.
AGING AND INTELLIGENCE
Galton in England measured intelligence by the ability to process sensory
information, with more intelligent people presumed to make finer distinctions in
modalities such as hearing, taste, and weight discrimination.
The Binet and Simon (1905) test measures ability to solve cognitive problems
rather than make sensory discriminations, and its success was such that other
countries adopted Binet’s ideas about intelligence as well as his methods of
Wechsler (1958) in America developed the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
(WAIS) using different tasks in order to measure intelligence in different spheres
of functioning. The WAIS differed from Binet and Simon’s (1905) test with
regard to the procedure used to compute levels of intelligence, better known as the
Whereas Binet and Simon used developmental age norms, Wechsler (1958) used
norms associated with adult age ranges. Weschler’s procedure provides for more
meaningful estimations of intelligence within the adult age span.
Thrustone in America challenged the hypothesis that intelligence is a single
ability that manifests itself to different degrees with different tasks. He proposed
that intelligence comprises different and distinguishable mental abilities termed
primary mental abilities
This was used to evaluate age trends in intelligence. Their measures included:
o Verbal combrehension – evidenced by the ability to understand verbal info
o Word fluency – the ability to solve anagrams, to generate instances of a
o Numerical manipulation – involved in arithmetic
o Spatial orientation – concerned with spatial aspects of problem solving
o Associate memory – mainly relevant to rote learning
o Perceptual speed – speed of making distinctions in spatial problems
o Inductive reasoning – which inv