History, cohorts, and patterns of cognitive aging

  • Alwin D
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Within the framework of K. Warner Schaie's legacy regarding the comprehensive study of intellectual and cognitive capacities, this chapter discusses the present state of our knowledge of cognitive aging, and especially of cohort differences in patterns of cognitive performance in populations of general interest. I organize the discussion around seven empirical principles that can be derived from Schaie's half-century of research. In achieving these objectives, I draw on examples from the contemporary literature that illustrate the issues raised and some of the current debates about the influences of cohort experiences on cognitive aging. I should point out that it is not my intention to canvass the entire research record of Schaie on intellectual and cognitive capacities but to focus on a limited set of issues. For purposes of illustration, I rely mainly on results obtained in my earlier research using the publicly available repeated cross-sectional data sets from the General Social Survey (GSS), a nationally representative sample of the adult household population of the United States. I also briefly discuss the results of our recent investigation of cohort effects on cognitive processes in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). For the most part, our findings support the hypotheses developed by Schaie on the basis of the SLS about patterns of cognitive aging, especially with regard to the patterns in test scores associated with aging, although our research registers some interesting disagreement about the nature of cohort differences and their sources. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved). (from the chapter)

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  • Duane F Alwin

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