A study published in the Journal Topics in Cognitive Science tried to examine the current measures used to show that older minds are more forgetful than their younger counterparts. The study, headed by Dr. Michael Ramscar of Tübingen University, found that these methods are “flawed” and have not taken other critical factors into account.
The writers argue that older people, like old computers, have more information gathered from experience and it takes more time for the brain to process these information. This contradicts the general assumption of ‘as we age, the capacity our brains decline.’
They argue the quick responsiveness of anyone’s mind depends on how much of related information the person had already possessed in mind.
The authors criticize the current measures that prove ‘mind declines as we age’ misses one critical factor: not taking into account how much vocabulary each mind had already possessed.
But the study confirms previous studies’ findings of why older people struggle with recalling names: because we have now many different names to remember than there were a decade ago.
Also, the writers take another one of the current methods used to show people’s loss of memory as they age: “paired-associate learning.” Here, they found that younger adults perform better when they learn word-pairs that appear more frequent in English than those that appear less. Their study also found that older adults are aware of the frequent appearance of some word-pairs than young adults.
Old adults’ struggle of learning “non-sense” word-pairs (because old adults are aware of the less frequent appearance of these pairs in the language) makes young adults’ understanding of the language not good enough.
The study concludes that new methods of measuring the “cognitive abilities” of old adults are needed because the “brains of older people do not get weak,” says Michael Ramscar. “On the contrary, they simply know more.”
The above story is based on materials provided by Universitaet Tübingen.
Journal Reference :
1. Michael Ramscar, Peter Hendrix, Cyrus Shaoul, Petar Milin, Harald Baayen. The Myth of Cognitive Decline: Non-Linear Dynamics of Lifelong Learning. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/tops.12078