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 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.
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