How variable is our cognitive performance from one day to the next? Do older adults vary more in their performance than younger people?
Scientists from Berlin, Frankfurt, and Sweden have examined these questions in the COGITO Study. The Director at the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy comments on what the findings mean with respect to the productivity of older adults in their working life.
Sometimes it’s just not your day: First you cannot remember where you put your car keys, and then you forget about an important meeting at work. On days like that, our memory seems to let us down. But is it really the case that we are cognitively fitter on some days than on others? Are there actually good and bad days for cognitive performance? Florian Schmiedek, Martin Lövdén, and Ulman Lindenberger examined this issue with the data set of the COGITO Study, an investigation conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.
The scientists’ findings show that variability in cognitive performance does indeed exist. Our personal impression that a whole day is either good or bad, however, is often wrong. Most performance fluctuations occur within shorter periods of time. What seems like a good or bad day is often due to good or bad moments that do not make the whole day’s cognitive performance any better or worse than that of an average day. “True variability from day to day is relatively low”, says Florian Schmiedek, who planned and carried out the COGITO Study together with Lövdén and Lindenberger.
The results of a comparison between age groups were particularly surprising: In all nine cognitive tasks assessed, the older group actually showed less performance variability from day to day than the younger group. The older adults’ cognitive performance was thus more consistent across days. This picture remained unaltered when differences in average performance favouring the young were taken into account. “Further analyses indicate that the older adults’ higher consistency is due to learnt strategies to solve the task, a constantly high motivation level as well as a balanced daily routine and stable mood,” explains Florian Schmiedek.
The findings are of importance for the debate about older people’s potential in working life. “On balance, older employees’ productivity and reliability is higher than that of their younger colleagues,” says Axel Börsch-Supan, Director at the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in reaction to the findings of the COGITO Study. “One of our studies in the car production industry has shown that serious errors that are expensive to resolve are much less likely to be committed by older staff members than by their younger colleagues. Likewise, in other branches of industry that we have studied, one does not observe higher productivity among the younger relative to the older workers,” states the scientist, who studies productivity of the labour force in aging societies.
In the internationally unique COGITO Study, 101 adults aged 20 to 31 years and 103 adults aged 65 to 80 years worked on twelve different tasks on 100 days. The tasks tested their perceptual speed, episodic memory, and working memory. Repeating the tasks across 100 days enabled the researchers to assess the participants’ learning improvements as well as their day-to-day performance fluctuations and to compare the performance of the two age groups.
ContactProf. Dr. Ulman Lindenberger
Psychological Science. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0956797613479611
Prof. Dr. Ulman Lindenberger | Max-Planck-Institute
Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US
01.12.2016 | Dartmouth College
Sustainable Development Goals lead to lower population growth
30.11.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine