Chapter

Variability in Cognitive Aging: From Taxonomy to Theory

Ulman Lindenberger and Timo von Oertzen

in Lifespan Cognition

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195169539
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847204 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195169539.003.0021
Variability in Cognitive Aging: From Taxonomy to Theory

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Variability in old age is often portrayed as the late-life culmination of interacting developmental causes that affect different individuals and different task domains to varying degrees. On the other hand, variability can also be conceived as an agent, or mechanism, of senescent changes in cognition. According to this complementary position, certain forms of variability index basic properties of senescing cognitive systems at neural or behavioral levels of analysis, and may help to explain ontogenetic changes in cognition from early adulthood to old age. Thus, the conceptual status of variability is ambiguous, as it denotes both consequences and causes of development. This chapter first introduces a taxonomy of intra-individual variability. Then, it focuses on two variability phenomena in cognitive aging: high processing fluctuation and intellectual ability dedifferentiation. Finally, it describes a neuro-computational model that integrates evidence about variability in cognitive aging across neural and behavioral levels of analysis and across microgenetic and ontogenetie timescales.

Keywords: variability; cognitive aging; cognition; development; high processing fluctuation; intellectual ability; dedifferentiation; taxonomy; old age

Chapter.  10078 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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