Everything We Know About Aging and Response Times: A Meta-Analytic Integration

Jun 21st, 2015
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A first school of thought tends towards strong reductionism. A monograph that best exemplifies this tendency is Salthouse’s 1991 Theoretical perspectives on cognitive aging.

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Everything We Know About Aging and Response Times: A Meta-Analytic IntegrationPaul Verhaeghen and John CerellaSyracuse UniversityHofer, S. M., & Alwin, D. F. (Eds.). The Handbook of Cognitive Aging: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.AcknowledgmentsThis research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (AG-16201). We thank Lieve De Meersman, Martin Sliwinski, David Steitz, and Christina Wasylyshyn for their contributions to the original research.Older adults take longer to process information than younger adults. It has long been known that the increase in response time (RT) is monotonic with adult age. In a large meta-analysis of studies using continuous age samples, Verhaeghen and Salthouse (1997) reported an age-speed correlation of -.52, and Welford (1977) estimated that each additional year of adult age increases choice reaction time by 1.5 ms. Cerella & Hale (1994) estimated that the average 70-year old functions at the speed of the average 8-year old a large effect.It also appears that this age-related slowing occurs in a wide variety of tasks, implicating a wide variety of cognitive systems: Memory search, visual search, lexical decision, mental rotation, speech discrimination, digit-symbol substitution, are but a few of the tasks that have consistently been found to yield age-related deficits in response times (see Kausler, 1991, and Salthouse, 1991, for excellent reviews of the def

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