Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed research involves laboratory experiments, descriptive and
ethnographic studies, and intervention with cognitive skill training in
order to better discriminate between two models used to explain age-related
deficits in prose comprehension. Older adults with average vocabulary
skills show age-related deficiencies in the ability to identify and use the
logical organization in prose in the amount of information they can
remember from prose. A neurological model of aging explains these are
deficits through irreversible, random, diffuse cell loss and less efficient
cell function in the central nervous system with increasing age, in the
absence of diagnosable disease. In contrast, an experiential model
explains these deficits as a result of specific, adaptive changes in
strategy due to particular environmental changes over the adult life span.
Changes in experiential factors across the life span, such as leaving
formal schooling or retiring, may cause changes in reading and listening
behavior and practice of certain reading and remembering skills. Lack of
practice of these skills may be responsible for the large deficits in
performance of old adults of average verbal ability on prose recall tasks
and recall of the organization of prose in comparison to average verbal
young adults. Our past work in the area appears to be more compatible with
the experiential model duel to age and verbal ability interactions which
have been found both in comprehension for prose and types of reading
behaviors used in everyday life. In the propsoed research we want to
further explore these factors and investigate the validity of the
experiential model for explaining data on prose comprehension across the
life span. This investigation will focus on three questions: (1) Does
the decrement found in the use of the logical organization in prose for
average verbal older adjults begin in middle age: (2) What specifically
are the critical differences in reading and information processing
activities in the everyday lives of young, middle, and old adults with high
and average vocabulary skills? (3) Can intervention with a program to
teach cognitive skills directly applicable to the recall of the logic and
information in prose improve the comprehension average verbal ability older
Effective start/end date12/31/8912/31/89


  • National Institute on Aging


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