Adult aging cognition perception sensation
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Adult Aging, Cognition, Perception, & Sensation. Presented by Gloria Perry & Debbie Barrineau EPY 8070. Cognition. Rybash, Roodin, & Hoyer ( 1995) define cognition as

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Adult Aging, Cognition, Perception, & Sensation

Presented by

Gloria Perry & Debbie Barrineau

EPY 8070


  • Rybash, Roodin, & Hoyer ( 1995) define cognition as

    “ the collection of processes that serves to transform, organize, select, retain, and interpret information” (p. 92).


  • The authors define perception to be

    “the ability to detect structures and events in the environment” (Rybash,Roodin, & Hoyer, 1995, p. 93).

Perception influenced by Skill

  • For example, radiologists can identify tumors on x- rays that would appear as smudges to the untrained eye.

  • Perception is therefore our interpretation of sensory information.

    (Cavanaugh, 1990, p. 139).

Perceptual Changes in Aging

  • There is a decline in the ability to observe forms that have been embedded in patterns.

  • Researchers are interested in whether these perceptual changes could be due to experiential or biological causes.

  • Research shows that there are reduced rates of processing, due to changes in the nervous system.


  • Cavanaugh (1990) defines sensation “as the reception of physical stimulation and its translation into neural impulses” (p. 139).

Absolute Threshold

  • Our absolute threshold refers to the smallest amount of stimulation required before we could detect that there was a stimulus present (Cavanaugh, 1990, p. 141).

  • It is difficult to determine age-related changes in the absolute threshold.

Age-Related Changes in Vision and Hearing

  • Age-related changes in the eye are of two forms: structural and retinal.

  • Structural changes occur in the 4th decade of life.

  • Retinal changes occur in the 6th decade of life.

    (Cavanaugh, 1990, p. 143)

Age-related Changes in Vision

  • Require higher levels of illumination

  • Respond with greater sensitivity to glare

  • Presbyopia

  • Color Sensitivity

  • Acuity

  • Adaptation

Age-Related Changes in Hearing

  • Presbycusis is a form of age-related hearing loss.

  • Change is a result of

    1) Neural changes

    2) Sensory changes

    3) Metabolic changes

    4) Mechanical changes

Information Processing

  • Research demonstrates that older adults go through the same types of processing as younger adults, but at a slower rate.


  • There are changes in attention, or the energy or capacity to support cognitive processing. (p. 98).

  • In addition, Rybash, Roodin, & Hoyer (1995) indicate that there are definite changes in “ arousal and alertness, the processes associated with information selection, and the ability to handle multiple sources of information”( p. 98).

Semantic Memory & Episodic Memory

  • Semantic memory refers to knowledge we have acquired about the world.

  • Episodic memory refers to the memories we have about events we have experienced in our lives.

  • For example, older adults may remember how to play a game they learned in childhood, but not remember when or even how they learned the game.

Our Working Memory

  • Rybash, Roodin, & Hoyer (1995) acknowledge that there are age-related changes in our working memory, which “refers to the processes and structures involved in simultaneously holding information and using that information” (p. 103).

Life-Events Model of Adaptation and Coping

  • A way to link stress and coping to the identification of life events that heighten hormonal and neurochemical reactions that may lead to illness.

The Cognitive Model of Adaptation & Coping

  • Emphasis is on the adult’s perception of potentially stressful events in life.

    While some people see events as a challenge and an opportunity for growth, others may see those same events as a source of tension, anxiety and dread (Cavanaugh, 1990, p. 339).

Transitions in adult life

  • Periods of change that tend to alternate with periods of stability

  • Levinson and colleagues refer to this as a person’s “life structure” or “the underlying pattern or design of a person’s life at any given time” (Levinson & Levinson, 1996, p.22)

  • Salient point – CHANGE is fundamental to adult life

Adult aging website:

  • CAST About CAST.htm

  • (Center for Aging Services Technology) - video

Types of Transitions

  • Anticipated

    • Expected to occur in one’s life

  • Unanticipated

    • Unexpected and do not have a typical time when they are likely to occur

  • Nonevent

    • The ones an individual expects that do not occur

  • “Sleeper”

    • Occurs gradually, often unnoticed but eventually culminates in change

Relationship of Life Transitions to Learning and Development

  • For learning to occur, the experiences need to be:

    • Discomforting

    • Disquieting

    • Puzzling enough to not reject or ignore but to allow reflection


Cultural and Contextual factors shape learning during transitions

  • It is the meaning we assign to an event that determines learning potential

    • Race, gender, socioeconomic status, education, and cultural context contribute to the meaning an individual assigns to an event

    • Example: consider divorce –

      • For some it is traumatic and painful whereas for others, in an abusive or non-caring relationship, it is liberating

Learning from a life event begins with attending and reflection

  • Boud, Keogh, and Walker (1985) define reflection as “those intellectual and affective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciations” (p. 19)

  • Outcomes include a new perspective on the experience, a change in behavior, or a commitment to action

  • Learning in this situation can be additive or developmental

Steps to cope with Transformative or developmental transitions

  • Accommodate the change

  • Solve the problem

  • Neutralize the stress

  • Actively engage with the event (even though it may be painful to do so)

  • Skar (2004) equates working through these critical life events to Complexity Theory – “disordered phases to more complex stages of order” that leads to a new self-organization (p. 259)

Characteristics of Developmental Transitions

  • Usually are sudden and dramatic, unplanned, and unanticipated

  • Experience is extremely vivid and can be described in great detail

  • Involve a profound change in the personal architecture of the identity

  • Experience is positive

  • Changes are permanent

  • From a study by White, W.L. (2004) dealing with 7 historical cases of profound change

Other research and interests into adult learning and development:

  • Kegan (1994) – interest in the structure of adult thinking and how to foster high levels of consciousness

    • Movement from concrete to abstract and then on to dialectical thinking, the “signature of adult thinking”.

Responding to adults in transition:

  • Educators sensitive to the fact that 83 % of adult learners are in transition could assist learners in the acquisition of new skills, attitudes,and behaviors that facilitate movement through the transition

  • Provide knowledge the learner in transition may not have (resources, support groups, etc.)

  • Provide a safe environment

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