Cognitive Process and Impact of Aging

Topics: Memory, Cognition, Psychology Pages: 5 (1495 words) Published: June 19, 2013
Problems paying attention to relevant information and ignoring irrelevant information in their environment; word-finding difficulties; problems remembering the context in which information was learned.

Cognitive inhibition refers to the mind's ability to tune out stimuli that are irrelevant to the task/process at hand or to the mind's current state. Cognitive inhibition can be done either in whole or in part, intentionally or otherwise. The process is sometimes seen as an extension of neural inhibition, which refers to the ability of individual neurons to stop elements of thought. Cognitive inhibition in particular can be observed in many instances throughout specific areas of psychological study. Decrementalist View: there is universal, inevitable, & pervasive decline. Speed of Processing

Older adults have a slower speed of processing than young adults. This slowed processing is noted at the motor level, but it also is apparent at a cognitive level. For example, older adults will tend to be slightly slower than young adults when they must slam on the break at a red light; this slowing may primarily be due to motor changes, because the association of red = stop remains very strong with aging. The reaction time differences between young and older adults will be exaggerated, however, if older adults must decide whether to slam on the breaks or to hit the gas as they approach a light that has just turned yellow. This additional slowing likely results because of the increased cognitive processing that must occur before the appropriate action can be selected.

Salthouse and colleagues have suggested that this decline in processing speed may underlie the age-related changes in cognitive function. It is apparent how slowed speed of processing could be detrimental to performance on any type of timed task. Importantly, however, a slower speed of processing could also manifest itself on non timed tasks. For example, imagine that I read aloud the following arithmetic problem, and ask you to solve it in your head, with no time limit: “Jimmy walks up to a store counter with 3 packs of gum, each costing 50 cents. He gives the sales clerk $5. Because the clerk is out of dollar bills, she gives Jimmy his change in quarters. How many quarters does Jimmy receive from the sales clerk?” On the face of it, this is a task of working memory ability (the ability to store various pieces of information and to update the information as you work through the problem) that might be thought of as being Independent from a measure of speed of processing, because there is no time limit for solving the task.

However, if it takes someone a little longer to process the phrase “Jimmy walks up to a store counter with 3 packs of gum, ” it is possible that they will have a harder time attending to the phrase “costing 50 cents.” Similarly, if it takes someone longer to multiply 3 by 50, it is possible that by the time that calculation is completed they will have forgotten the amount of money that Jimmy gave to the clerk. In other words, cognitive performance can suffer because the slowed mental operations cannot be carried out within the necessary time frame, and because the increased time between mental operations can make it more difficult to access previously processed information. Thus, a slower speed of processing may lead to a poorer encoding of information and a reduced ability to store information. In support of the hypothesis that processing speed changes may underlie much of the cognitive decline with aging, controlling for speed of processing often eliminates age differences on cognitive tasks, and longitudinal studies have shown a strong relation between changes in speed of processing and changes in performance on a large number of cognitive tasks.

Lynn Hasher, Rose Zacks and colleagues have proposed that older adults’ cognitive deficits may relate to their inability to ignore irrelevant information in the environment...
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