Age Related Changes in Cognition during the Working Years.
Final rept. 1 Apr 79-31 May 81,
WASHINGTON UNIV SEATTLE DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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In order to alleviate present and anticipated personnel shortages, the Armed Services will have to move away from the present reliance on young adults as a source of personnel. The impact will be heaviest on the technologically oriented services, such as the Navy. Previous analyses have indicated that adults in the normal working years 20-60 can meet the physical requirements of most service occupations. Questions remain about the effects of age changes in cognition on work performance of older personnel. Changes in cognitive capacities over the adult working years are reviewed here. Two major decrements are noted a general deterioration of sensory functioning and a slowing of higher cognitive processes. The latter slowing may be sufficient to affect performance in situations in which time demands on responding are on the order of fractions of seconds, but would probably not affect most work situations. The general effects of experience, combined with an increase in verbal intelligence throughout the working years, argues for increased competence of older individuals in many work situations. There are indications that spatial reasoning abilities and the ability to develop solutions to new problems fluid intelligence decrease with age. Secondary and review articles may overstate this effect. The primary studies themselves have serious design flaws.