The Mismeasurement of Mind: Life-Span Changes in Paired-Associate-Learning Scores Reflect the “Cost” of Learning, Not Cognitive Decline

Michael Ramscar*, Ching Chu Sun, Peter Hendrix, Harald Baayen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The age-related declines observed in scores on paired-associate-learning (PAL) tests are widely taken as support for the idea that human cognitive capacities decline across the life span. In a computational simulation, we showed that the patterns of change in PAL scores are actually predicted by the models that formalize the associative learning process in other areas of behavioral and neuroscientific research. These models also predict that manipulating language exposure can reproduce the experience-related performance differences erroneously attributed to age-related decline in age-matched adults. Consistent with this, results showed that older bilinguals outperformed native speakers in a German PAL test, an advantage that increased with age. These analyses and results show that age-related PAL performance changes reflect the predictable effects of learning on the associability of test items, and indicate that failing to control for these effects is distorting the understanding of cognitive and brain development in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1179
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Volume28
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • adult development
  • aging
  • associative processes
  • behavioral assessment
  • bilingualism
  • open data
  • open materials

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Mismeasurement of Mind: Life-Span Changes in Paired-Associate-Learning Scores Reflect the “Cost” of Learning, Not Cognitive Decline'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this