Adult aging cognition perception sensation
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Adult aging cognition perception sensation

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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 & 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

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

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

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

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

Adult aging website:

  • CAST About CAST.htm

  • (Center for Aging Services Technology) - video

Types of transitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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