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Reaction Time - Conclusion

age aging physiological differences processing aging allen age

While it is true that older adults do show longer overall processing time than younger adults (Birren), this RT slowing is not constant across all processing stages and tasks. For semantic memory tasks such as a lexical decision (Allen et al., 1993) or a naming (Balota and Ferraro), older adults show slower peripheral processing (encoding Figure 3 Transposition Distance SOURCE: Author and response execution), but there are no appreciable age differences in central processing (particularly for memory retrieval). However, for many episodic memory tasks, there are actually larger central-process than peripheral-process age differences (Cerella). Research using RT, especially when it can be decomposed to shed light on specific stages of mental processing, will ultimately move us toward a deeper understanding of the changes in thinking that accompany aging.

PHIL ALLEN

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ALLEN, P. A.; KAUFMAN, M.; SMITH, A. F.; and PROPPER, R. (1998). ‘‘A Molar Entropy Model of Age Differences in Spatial Memory.’’ Psychology and Aging 13 (1998): 501–518.

ALLEN, P. A.; MADDEN, D. J.; and SLANE, S. ‘‘Visual Word Encoding and the Effect of Adult Age and Word Frequency.’’ In Age Differences in Word and Language Processing. Edited by P. A. Allen and T. R. Bashore. New York: North-Holland., 1995.

ALLEN, P. A.; MADDEN, D. J.; WEBER, T. A.; and GROTH, K. E. ‘‘Influence of Age and Processing Stage on Visual Word Recognition.’’ Psychology and Aging 8 (1993): 274–282.

ALLEN, P. A.; SMITH, A. F.; JERGE, K. A.; and VIRES-COLLINS, H. ‘‘Age Differences in Mental Multiplication: Evidence for Peripheral But Not Central Decrements.’’ Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences 52B (1997): P81–P90.

BALOTA, D. A., and FERRARO, F. R. ‘‘A Dissociation of Frequency and Regularity Effects in Pronunciation Performance Across Young Adults, Older Adults, and Individuals with Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer’s Type.’’ Journal of Memory and Language 32 (1993): 573–592.

BIRREN, J. E. ‘‘Age Changes in the Speed of Behavior: Its Central Nature and Physiological Correlates.’’ In Behavior, Aging, and the Nervous System. Edited by A. T. Welford and J. E. Birren. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1965.

BURKE, D. M., and LIGHT, L. L. ‘‘Memory and Aging: The Role of Retrieval Processes.’’ Psychological Bulletin 90 (1981): 513–546.

CERELLA, J. ‘‘Information Processing Rates in the Elderly.’’ Psychological Bulletin 98 (1985): 67–83.

LIGHT, L. L. ‘‘Memory and Aging: Four Hypotheses in Search of Data.’’ Annual Review of Psychology 42 (1991): 333–376.

LIMA, S. D.; HALE, S.; and MYERSON, J. ‘‘How General Is General Slowing? Evidence from the Lexical Domain.’’ Psychology and Aging 6 (1991): 416–425.

LUCE, R. D. Response Times. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

MADDEN, D. J.; PIERCE, T. W.; and ALLEN, P. A. ‘‘Age-Related Slowing and the Time Course of Semantic Priming in Visual Word Identification.’’ Psychology and Aging 8 (1993): 490–507.

PACHELLA, R. ‘‘The Use of Reaction Time Measures in Information Processing Research.’’ In Human Information Processing. Edited by B. H. Kantowicz. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1974.

SALTHOUSE, T. A. ‘‘The Processing-Speed Theory of Adult Age Differences in Cognition.’’ Psychological Review 103 (1996): 403–428.

STERNBERG, S. ‘‘Two Operations in Character Recognition: Some Evidence from Reaction Time Measurements.’’ Perception & Psychophysics 2 (1967): 45–53.

WICKENS, C. D. Engineering Psychology and Human Performance. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.

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