Saturday, November 20, 2010

Older is not better, at least for thinking

My friend Julianne pointed me to this article in Scientific American which describes a study which found that older people are not more risk adverse than younger people, but they are less accurate in making decisions that avoid the probability of loss. A useful tip for those of us who are surely in the "older" category.

I note the more general statement from the article:
This hypothesis matches up with what psychologists know about cognitive aging. "There's a pretty straightforward story," says Scott Huettel, a cognitive neuroscientist who studies decision-making and aging at Duke University's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. "More or less all of our cognitive abilities decline throughout the life span." A large body of research has shown that a wide variety of skills, including memory, analytical reasoning and processing speed, decrease as we age. The one thing that stays constant or even increases, Huettel says, is crystallized intelligence, a person's accrued knowledge about the world—in other words, experience.
I can provide first hand evidence that this is true. On the other hand, even us old guys can learn and become faster and more accurate on a specific task if we work at it.

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