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Psychology and Aging - Vol 32, Iss 2

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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
  • Stability and change in subjective well-being: The role of performance-based and self-rated cognition.
    The primary goal of this study was to address the stability-despite-loss paradox of subjective well-being. Performance-based and self-evaluative measures of cognitive functioning were examined as predictors of subjective well-being in middle-aged and older adults using data from the Interdisciplinary Longitudinal Study of Adult Development (ILSE). Consistent with past work, subjective well-being remained relatively stable over a period of 12 years in both age groups, although performance-based and self-rated cognition declined over time. Cognitive status, as determined by standard psychometric tests of fluid cognitive abilities, was unrelated to longitudinal change in subjective well-being. A symmetrical measure of self-rated cognitive performance predicted intraindividual change in subjective well-being in middle-aged but not older adults. This pattern of findings helps clarify why many older people may be able to maintain their subjective well-being, while their cognitive abilities decline. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Socioeconomic, health, and psychosocial mediators of racial disparities in cognition in early, middle, and late adulthood.
    Racial disparities in cognitive performance exist across the life course, but it is not known whether mediators of disparities differ by age. Understanding sources of cognitive disparities at different ages can inform policies and interventions. Data were obtained for non-Hispanic Black and White respondents to The National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States from 3 age groups: 28–44 (N = 1210; 20% Black); 45–64 (N = 2693; 15% Black); and 65–85 (N = 1298; 11% Black). Moderated mediation models characterized direct and indirect effects of race on episodic memory and executive function composite scores through economic, health, and psychosocial variables as a function of age group. Education, income, chronic health conditions, and external locus of control mediated cognitive disparities across the life course, although income was a stronger mediator at younger ages. Perceived discrimination was a weaker mediator among young adults due to an absence of racial differences in perceived discrimination in that group. Despite multiple indirect effects, there were still significant unexplained effects of race on cognition that were not moderated by age group. Interventional work is needed to determine whether increasing educational attainment and income, and reducing chronic health conditions and perceived constraints among Blacks, reduce cognitive disparities. Targeting income inequality and discrimination (or buffering the impact of those variables) may be differently effective at reducing cognitive disparities at different stages of the adult life course. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Personality and actigraphy-measured physical activity in older adults.
    Most studies on personality and physical activity have relied on self-report measures. This study examined the relation between Five Factor Model personality traits and objective physical activity in older adults. Sixty-nine participants (Mage = 80.2 years; SD = 7.1) wore the ActiGraph monitor for 7 days and completed the NEO Personality Inventory-3 First Half. Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness were associated with more moderate physical activity and more steps per day whereas Neuroticism was inversely related to these physical activity measures (βs > .20). The associations for Neuroticism and Conscientiousness were attenuated by approximately 20–40% when accounting for disease burden and body mass index but were essentially unchanged for Extraversion and Agreeableness. These findings confirm self-report evidence that personality traits are associated with physical activity levels in older adults. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Sensory functioning and personality development among older adults.
    Deficits in sensory functioning, such as poor vision and hearing, take a significant toll on quality of life. Little is known, however, about their relation with personality development across adulthood. This study examined whether baseline and change in vision and hearing were associated with personality change over a 4-year period. Participants (N = 7,471; Mage = 66.89; 59% women) were drawn from the Health and Retirement Study. They provided data on vision, hearing, and personality both at baseline and 4 years later. Poor vision and hearing at baseline and declines in vision and hearing over time were independently related to steeper declines in extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness, and less decline in neuroticism, controlling for demographic factors, disease burden, and depressive symptoms. Sensory functioning was generally a stronger predictor of personality change than disease burden or depressive symptoms. Consistent with evidence that poor and worsening sensory functions compromise individuals’ interactions with the social and physical environment, this study found deficits in hearing and vision were also associated with maladaptive personality trajectories in older adults. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • IQ as moderator of terminal decline in perceptual and motor speed, spatial, and verbal ability: Testing the cognitive reserve hypothesis in a population-based sample followed from age 70 until death.
    Terminal decline (TD) refers to acceleration in within-person cognitive decline prior to death. The cognitive reserve hypothesis postulates that individuals with higher IQ are able to better tolerate age-related increase in brain pathologies. On average, they will exhibit a later onset of TD, but once they start to decline, their trajectory is steeper relative to those with lower IQ. We tested these predictions using data from initially nondemented individuals (n = 179) in the H70-study repeatedly measured at ages 70, 75, 79, 81, 85, 88, 90, 92, 95, 97, 99, and 100, or until death, on cognitive tests of perceptual-and-motor-speed and spatial and verbal ability. We quantified IQ using the Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices (RCPM) test administrated at age 70. We fitted random change point TD models to the data, within a Bayesian framework, conditioned on IQ, age of death, education, and sex. In line with predictions, we found that 1 additional standard deviation on the IQ scale was associated with a delay in onset of TD by 1.87 (95% highest density interval [HDI; 0.20, 4.08]) years on speed, 1.96 (95% HDI [0.15, 3.54]) years on verbal ability, but only 0.88 (95% HDI [−0.93, 3.49]) year on spatial ability. Higher IQ was associated with steeper rate of decline within the TD phase on measures of speed and verbal ability, whereas results on spatial ability were nonconclusive. Our findings provide partial support for the cognitive reserve hypothesis and demonstrate that IQ can be a significant moderator of cognitive change trajectories in old age. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The effects of word frequency and word predictability during first- and second-language paragraph reading in bilingual older and younger adults.
    We used eye movement measures of paragraph reading to examine how word frequency and word predictability impact first-language (L1) and second-language (L2) word processing in matched bilingual older and younger adults, varying in amount of current L2 experience. Our key findings were threefold. First, across both early- and late-stage reading, word frequency effects were generally larger in older than in younger adults, whereas word predictability effects were generally age-invariant. Second, across both age groups and both reading stages, word frequency effects were larger in the L2 than in the L1, whereas word predictability effects were language-invariant. Third, graded differences in current L2 experience modulated L1 and L2 word processing in younger adults, but had no impact in older adults. Specifically, greater current L2 experience facilitated L2 word processing, but impeded L1 word processing among younger adults only. Taken together, we draw 2 main conclusions. First, bilingual older adults experience changes in word-level processing that are language-non-specific, potentially because lexical accessibility decreases with age. Second, bilingual older adults experience changes in word-level processing that are insensitive to graded differences in current L2 experience, potentially because lexical representations reach a functional ceiling over time. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Training working memory in older adults: Is there an advantage of using strategies?
    The purpose of the present study was to test the efficacy of a working memory (WM) training in elderly people, and to compare the effects of a WM training based on an adaptive procedure with one combining the same procedure with the use of a strategy, based on the construction of visual mental images. Eighteen older adults received training with a WM task (the WM group), another 18 received the same WM training and were also taught to use a visual imagery strategy (the WM + Strategy group), and another 18 served as active controls. Training-related gains in the WM (criterion) task and transfer effects on measures of verbal and visuospatial WM, short-term memory (STM), processing speed, and reasoning were considered. Training gains and transfer effects were also assessed after 6 months. After the training, both the trained groups performed better than the control group in the WM criterion task, and maintained these gains 6 months later; they also showed immediate transfer effects on processing speed. The two trained groups also outperformed the control group in the long term in the WM tasks, in one of the STM tasks (backward span task), and in the processing speed measure. Long-term large effect sizes were found for all the tasks involving memory processes in the WM + Strategy group, but only for the processing speed task in the WM group. Findings are discussed in terms of the benefits and limits of teaching older people a strategy in combination with an adaptive WM training. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Spontaneous or intentional? Involuntary versus voluntary episodic memories in older and younger adults.
    Involuntary episodic memories are memories of past events that come to mind with no preceding attempt of retrieval. Such memories have received little attention in relation to aging compared with voluntary episodic memories (i.e., intentionally retrieved memories of past events). It is well documented that older compared with younger adults have reduced access to episodic memories, when retrieval is voluntary, but little is known about their involuntary episodic recall. Recent evidence suggests that involuntary autobiographical memories are at least as frequent as voluntary autobiographical memories in daily life, but this research has been limited to younger adults. Here older and younger adults recorded involuntary and voluntary episodic memories in relation to a film of a simulated event (Study 1) and during a normal day in their lives (Study 2). Across both studies, no age differences were found regarding the frequency of involuntary episodic memories, whereas older adults showed slower (Study 1) and less frequent (Study 2) voluntary remembering compared with younger adults. The findings suggest that involuntary relative to voluntary episodic remembering is enhanced in older adults, consistent with reduced executive functioning and increased processing of task irrelevant information with aging. Involuntary episodic remembering may provide an adaptive compensation for reductions in strategic retrieval in later adulthood. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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