Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Human Development, Neuroscience.

Description: Who do you think would be most likely to benefit from feedback about which answers on a test they had gotten wrong (and what the correct answers were) and make the appropriate changes in their knowledge so as not to recommit those errors in future? Do you think this would be more true of young adults in their mid-20s or older adults in their mid-70s? What you answered this question to yourself and read the article linked below.

Source: Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Elders May Beat Young Adults at Correcting Mistakes. Psych Central

Date: November 1, 2015

Older Correcting

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It’s quite a common assumption that young adults are mentally quicker and systematically better at processing information and building on or correcting their knowledge as result of that information. This study examined that assumption directly by comparing the performance of a group of mid-20-year-old young adults with that of a group of mid-70-year-old Elder adults. All participants were asked a series of general knowledge questions (such as which ancient city was famous for its hanging gardens?). In addition to providing answers to each question participants were asked to rate their level of certainty that their answers were correct (i.e., were they confident or uncertain that their answers were correct). All participants were then provided with feedback in which they were told which questions they got wrong and were provided with the correct answers. At the end of the study they were given a pop quiz in which they were asked a number of questions again. They were asked to re-answer some questions they were originally confident in but wrong, some questions they were uncertain about and wrong, and some questions where they indicated that they did not know the answer. What the researchers found was that while both groups were more likely to have reorganized their knowledge and corrected their answers to questions originally confident about but got wrong, it was only the elder group that showed a significant improvement in their knowledge for questions that there were originally not sure about and got wrong. Using EEG data the researchers were also able to show direct evidence of the increased activation of attention centres of the brain only among the older group in this latter condition. The researchers suggested that their results tell us something about the older adults’ priorities and specifically suggested that “they care more very much about the truth, they don’t want to make mistakes, and they recruit their attention to get it right”.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What differences in attention and information processing to the results of this study suggest might exist between younger and elder adults?
  2. Do these results suggest anything about how you might approach practice study questions prior to writing exams?
  3. How might we need to adjust our assumptions about information processing in elderly populations as a result of study such as this?

References (Read Further):

Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Elders May Beat Young Adults at Correcting Mistakes. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2015, from

Metcalfe, J., Casal-Roscum, L., Radin, A., & Friedman, D. (2015). On Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks. Psychological science.