Psychology and Aging: Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 1991

By James E. Birren; Martha Storandt et al. | Go to book overview

Aging and Slowing of Behavior: Consequences for Cognition and Survival

James E. Birren
University of California, Los
Angeles

and Laurel M. Fisher
University of California, Los
Angeles

Since Francis Galton's research in the previous century, we have known that older persons tend to be slow in reacting to stimuli. This chapter attempts to promote understanding of the implications of this slowing with increasing age and the significance we attach to it. Is the slowness a broad phenomenon reflecting other aspects of an organism's effective functioning and well-being, or is it a relatively minor feature of growing old, like graying of hair? Much of the research reviewed here appears to indicate that slowness of behavior is a marker of the aging process, one that merits exploration and use.

It is impossible to review all the literature on slowing of behavior with age, since it embraces nearly a hundred years of study. Here we emphasize work published after 1980. For a summary of early work see, for example, Birren, Woods, and Williams ( 1980). We use the term speed of behavior rather than the earlier reaction time, which carries an implicit bias in attributing the additional time older persons take to the act of responding rather than to other components such as perception, decision making, or response organization. On the surface, slowing of behavior seems to be more attribution-neutral, though it too may contain implicit assumptions about the complex processes of aging.

Aging affects every aspect of life-physiological, psychological,

-1-

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Psychology and Aging: Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 1991
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Aging and Slowing Of Behavior: Consequences for Cognition And Survival 1
  • References 33
  • Memory-Skills Training for Older Adults 39
  • References 119
  • Wisdom And Successful Aging 123
  • References 159
  • Trait Psychology Comes of Age 169
  • References 200
  • Natural Cohorts: Family Similarity In Adult Cognition 205
  • References 240
  • Maturing the Study Of Aging: Discussant'S Commentary 245
  • Conclusion 257
  • Subject Index 261
  • Author Index 269
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