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Psychology and Aging - Vol 32, Iss 6

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Psychology and Aging Psychology and Aging publishes original articles on adult development and aging. Such original articles include reports of research that may be applied, biobehavioral, clinical, educational, experimental (laboratory, field, or naturalistic studies), methodological, or psychosocial. Although the emphasis is on original research investigations, occasional theoretical analyses of research issues, practical clinical problems, or policy may appear, as well as critical reviews of a content area in adult development and aging.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Levels of and changes in life satisfaction predict mortality hazards: Disentangling the role of physical health, perceived control, and social orientation.
    It is well documented that well-being typically evinces precipitous decrements at the end of life. However, research has primarily taken a postdictive approach by knowing the outcome (date of death) and aligning, in retrospect, how well-being has changed for people with documented death events. In the present study, we made use of a predictive approach by examining whether and how levels of and changes in life satisfaction prospectively predict mortality hazards and delineate the role of contributing factors, including health, perceived control, and social orientation. To do so, we applied shared parameter growth-survival models to 20-year longitudinal data from 10,597 participants (n = 1,560 [15%] deceased; age at baseline: M = 44 years, SD = 17, range = 18–98 years) from the national German Socio-Economic Panel Study. Our findings showed that lower levels and steeper declines of life satisfaction each uniquely predicted higher mortality risks. Results also revealed moderating effects of age and perceived control: Life satisfaction levels and changes had stronger predictive effects for mortality hazards among older adults. Perceived control was associated with lower mortality hazards; however, this effect was diminished for those who experienced accelerated life satisfaction decline. Variance decomposition suggests that predictive effects of life satisfaction trajectories were partially unique (3%–6%) and partially shared with physical health, perceived control, and social orientation (17%–19%). Our discussion focuses on the strengths and challenges of a predictive approach to link developmental changes (in life satisfaction) to mortality hazards, and considers implications of our findings for healthy aging. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Adversity in childhood and measures of aging in midlife: Findings from a cohort of british women.
    Very few studies have assessed whether socioeconomic and psychosocial adversity during childhood are associated with objective measures of aging later in life. We assessed associations of socioeconomic position (SEP) and total psychosocial adversity during childhood, with objectively measured cognitive and physical capability in women during midlife. Adverse childhood experiences were retrospectively reported at mean ages 28–30 years in women from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (N = 2,221). We investigated associations of childhood SEP and total psychosocial adversity, with composite measures of cognitive and physical capability at mean age 51 years. There was evidence that, compared with participants whose fathers had professional occupations, participants whose fathers had managerial/technical, skilled nonmanual, skilled manual, and partly or unskilled manual occupations had, on average, lower physical and cognitive capability. There was a clear trend for increasing magnitudes of association with lowering childhood SEP. There was also evidence that greater total psychosocial adversity in childhood was associated with lower physical capability. Total psychosocial adversity in childhood was not associated with cognitive capability. Lower SEP in childhood is detrimental to cognitive and physical capability in midlife, at least in part, independently of subsequent SEP in adulthood. Greater psychosocial adversity in childhood is associated with poorer physical capability, independently of social disadvantage in childhood. Our findings highlight the need for interventions to both identify and support children experiencing socioeconomic or psychosocial of adversity as early as possible. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • In the eye of the beholder: Can counter-stereotypes change perceptions of older adults’ social status?
    Negative age-related stereotypes often entail the perception that older adults have a lower social status than middle-aged adults. We hypothesized that older adults are perceived to have lower social status because they are less likely to be seen in prestigious occupational positions. People tend to infer general assumptions about group characteristics from exemplars. According to this, presenting a stereotype-inconsistent exemplar (i.e., older person in a high-status position) should change perceptions of older adults’ social status. Study 1 (60 countries, N = 86,026, 18–99 years) showed that people in countries with an older relative to a younger political leader do not perceive as great a decline in social status from middle-aged to older adults. Study 2 (N = 131; 19–74 years) tested the causal link demonstrating that participants exposed to older exemplars holding a prestigious occupational position were significantly more likely to rate older adults as having a relative higher social status. We discuss implications for future interventions to change negative age-related stereotypes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Visual attention and emotional reactions to negative stimuli: The role of age and cognitive reappraisal.
    Prominent life span theories of emotion propose that older adults attend less to negative emotional information and report less negative emotional reactions to the same information than younger adults do. Although parallel age differences in affective information processing and age differences in emotional reactivity have been proposed, they have rarely been investigated within the same study. In this eye-tracking study, we tested age differences in visual attention and emotional reactivity, using standardized emotionally negative stimuli. Additionally, we investigated age differences in the association between visual attention and emotional reactivity, and whether these are moderated by cognitive reappraisal. Older as compared with younger adults showed fixation patterns away from negative image content, while they reacted with greater negative emotions. The association between visual attention and emotional reactivity differed by age group and positive reappraisal. Younger adults felt better when they attended more to negative content rather than less, but this relationship only held for younger adults who did not attach a positive meaning to the negative situation. For older adults, overall, there was no significant association between visual attention and emotional reactivity. However, for older adults who did not use positive reappraisal, decreases in attention to negative information were associated with less negative emotions. The present findings point to a complex relationship between younger and older adults’ visual attention and emotional reactions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Age differences in coupling of intraindividual variability in mnemonic strategies and practice-related associative recall improvements.
    The importance of encoding strategies for associative recall is well established, but there have been no studies of aging and intraindividual variability (IAV) in strategy use during extended practice. We observed strategy use and cued-recall test performance over 101 days of practice in 101 younger adults (M = 25.6 years) and 103 older adults (M = 71.3 years) sandwiched by a pretest and posttest battery including an associative recall test. Each practice session included 2 lists of 12 number-noun paired-associate (PA) items (e.g., 23-DOGS), presented for brief exposures titrated to maintain below-ceiling performance throughout practice. Participants reported strategy use (e.g., rote repetition, imagery) after each test. Substantial IAV in strategy use was detected that was coupled with performance; lists studied with normatively effective strategies (e.g., imagery) generated higher PA recall than lists studied with less effective strategies (e.g., rote repetition). In comparison to younger adults, older adults’ practice (a) relied more on repetition and less on effective strategies, (b) showed lower levels of IAV in effective strategy use, and (c) had lower within-person strategy–recall coupling, especially late in practice. Individual differences in pretest-posttest gains in PA recall were predicted by average level of effective strategy use in young adults but by strategy–recall coupling in older adults. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that experiencing variability in strategic outcomes during practice helps hone the effectiveness of strategic encoding behavior, and that older adults’ reduced degree of pretest-posttest gains is influenced by lower likelihood of using and optimizing effective strategies through practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • An age-related deficit in resolving interference: Evidence from speech perception.
    The presence of noise and interfering information can pose major difficulties during speech perception, particularly for older adults. Analogously, interference from similar representations during retrieval is a major cause of age-related memory failures. To demonstrate a suppression mechanism that underlies such speech and memory difficulties, we tested the hypothesis that interference between targets and competitors is resolved by suppressing competitors, thereby rendering them less intelligible in noise. In a series of experiments using a paradigm adapted from Healey, Hasher, and Campbell (2013), we presented a list of words that included target/competitor pairs of orthographically similar words (e.g., ALLERGY and ANALOGY). After a delay, participants solved fragments (e.g., A_L__GY), some of which resembled both members of the target/competitor pair, but could only be completed by the target. We then assessed the consequence of having successfully resolved this interference by asking participants to identify words in noise, some of which included the rejected competitor words from the previous phase. Consistent with a suppression account of interference resolution, younger adults reliably demonstrated reduced identification accuracy for competitors, indicating that they had effectively rejected, and therefore suppressed, competitors. In contrast, older adults showed a relative increase in accuracy for competitors relative to young adults. Such results suggest that older adults’ reduced ability to suppress these representations resulted in sustained access to lexical traces, subsequently increasing perceptual identification of such items. We discuss these findings within the framework of inhibitory control theory in cognitive aging and its implications for age-related changes in speech perception. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Aging and syntactic representations: Evidence of preserved syntactic priming and lexical boost.
    Young adults can be primed to reuse a syntactic structure across otherwise unrelated utterances but it is not known whether this phenomenon exists in older adults. In a dialogue task, young and older adults described transitive verb target pictures after hearing active or passive sentences. Both groups were more likely to produce a passive sentence following a passive prime than following an active prime (indicating syntactic priming), and this effect increased when the prime and target involved the same verb (indicating lexical boost). These effects were statistically equivalent in young and older adults, suggesting that the syntactic representations underlying sentence production are unaffected by normal aging. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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