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COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT. Does the brain “shrink” with age? Does memory deteriorate with age? Can you “teach an old dog new tricks”? Does intelligence decline with age? Implications for: jobs educational opportunities social status. Chapter 6: Attention and Perceptual Processing

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cognitive development
  • Does the brain “shrink” with age?
  • Does memory deteriorate with age?
  • Can you “teach an old dog new tricks”?
  • Does intelligence decline with age?

Implications for:

  • jobs
  • educational opportunities
  • social status
Chapter 6: Attention and Perceptual Processing
  • Chapter 7: Memory
  • Chapter 8: Intelligence
  • Chapter 9: Social Cognition (pp. 317-334)
Attention and Perceptual Processing:

The Information Processing Model

  • Basic tenets:
  • We are active processors.
  • We process quantitative and qualitative information.
  • Information is processed through a series of stores or systems.
1st system: sensory memory
  • Brain’s door to outside world:
    • New, incoming information first picked up:
      • sounds, sights, smells, etc.
    • Very fast but fleeting:
      • if not attended to, it vanishes from consciousness

What determines what is attended to?

  • Attentional processes:
    • selective attention: what we attend to gets passed to the next store or system, what we don’t attend to disappears
    • important feature, as there is too much sensory input around us
Attentional processes (Cont’d):
    • selectivity determined by motivation, interest, previous cues, state of mind, expectations, previous experience, etc.
    • divided attention: ability to pay attention to more than one thing at the same time, e.g. study and listen to music. More common than we realize in daily life.
    • sustained attention: focus on task or object for a long time, e.g., waiting for appropriate highway sign to appear.
    • switching attention: back and forth between two or more items, e.g., looking out the windshield, then the side mirrors, then the rearview mirror, back to the windshield.
  • Some age differences found in complex tasks. Practice helps, as well as cues.
    • most recent tests of attentional factors, and many other cognitive features, are done using stimuli on computer screens. Younger people much more used to computers.
  • The fitness factor:
    • older adults perform better if they exercise regularly.
Age differences in processing:
  • Young adults more likely to exhibit the automatic attention response in laboratory tasks.
  • This is when a previously learned stimulus automatically gets your attention, it “jumps out” at you from a jumble of other stimuli.
  • Possible explanation:
    • general slowing of neural transmissions in older adults. This is known as:
Age differences in processing (Cont’d):
  • Speed of processing:
    • in order to react to a stimulus, we must process it first: what does it mean? Do we need to respond? And if yes, how? And then produce the response. Attention and memory involved.
  • Speed of processing tested with reaction time tasks. Three types:
    • simple RT tasks: one stimulus
    • choice RT tasks: more than one stimulus
    • complex RT tasks: many decisions for many complex tasks
Age differences in processing (Cont’d):
  • Simple:
    • older adults take longer on the cognitive step, not on the motor step (response).
  • Choice:
    • different Rs needed for each S. Older adults slower.
  • Complex:
    • e.g. driving. Older adults progressively worse as complexity increases.
  • Possible causes of slower processing:
    • changes in the neurons and synapses (neural circuits)
  • In everyday life, older adults have compensations: experience at a specific task (see text: typists, race car drivers)
Language Processing:
  • Important for understanding information processing.
  • Language comprehension related to sensory capabilities (hearing, vision)
  • Older adults have more difficulty when
    • speed increases
    • there is background noise or interfering sounds
  • Importance of encoding for language processing: rich encoding: connecting a word to other known words or facts.
Language Processing (Cont’d):
  • Because one’s language is so well encoded, no significant age differences have been found. Research results sometimes conflicting.

Read studies as examples for

comprehension, but no need to learn