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
Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften
Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology