Aging and skilled performance: Advances in Theory and Applications

By Wendy A. Rogers; Arthur D. Fisk et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Aging and Memory: Implications for Skilled Performance

Fergus I. M. Craik University of Toronto

Larry L. Jacoby McMaster University

This chapter concerns age-related changes in human memory and the implications that these changes have for the acquisition and maintenance of various types of skilled performance. After surveying what is currently known and understood about the differences in memory abilities at various ages, we focus primarily on the contrast between consciously controlled and automatic processes. The basic idea is that behavior reflects a combination of automatic influences and consciously controlled processes. In general, it seems that age differences are smallest when processes are driven automatically by the stimulus or supported by the environment, that is, in cases in which the stimulus is strongly linked to the appropriate response, either by "wired in" functions or because the response is habitual. Age differences are greatest, on the other hand, when processes must be self-initiated in a consciously controlled manner and when a different attentional set from that induced by habit, or by a specific environment, must be established. This account is somewhat similar to the proposal made by Hasher and Zacks ( 1979), that age differences are greatest with effortful processing and least with automatic processing. Also, it has similarities to Rabbitt ( 1979, 1982) suggestion that data driven processes hold up well with age, whereas memory (or conceptually) driven processes are impaired.

We argue that to understand memory and learning fully, it is necessary to separate the contributions of automatic and controlled processes. This may be especially true for age-related differences, in which case there is reason to believe that consciously controlled

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