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Learning is not decline: The mental lexicon as a window into cognition across the lifespan

Ramscar, M; Hendrix, P; Love, B; Baayen, RH; (2013) Learning is not decline: The mental lexicon as a window into cognition across the lifespan. The Mental Lexicon , 8 (3) pp. 450-481. 10.1075/ml.8.3.08ram. Green open access

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Abstract

As otherwise healthy adults age, their performance on cognitive tests tends to decline. This change is traditionally taken as evidence that cognitive processing is subject to significant declines in healthy aging. We examine this claim, showing current theories over-estimate the evidence in support of it, and demonstrating that when properly evaluated, the empirical record often indicates that the opposite is true. To explain the disparity between the evidence and current theories, we show how the models of learning assumed in aging research are incapable of capturing even the most basic of empirical facts of “associative” learning, and lend themselves to spurious discoveries of “cognitive decline.” Once a more accurate model of learning is introduced, we demonstrate that far from declining, the accuracy of older adults lexical processing appears to improve continuously across the lifespan. We further identify other measures on which performance does not decline with age, and show how these different patterns of performance fit within an overall framework of learning. Finally, we consider the implications of our demonstrations of continuous and consistent learning performance throughout adulthood for our understanding of the changes in underlying brain morphology that occur during the course of cognitive development across the lifespan.

Type: Article
Title: Learning is not decline: The mental lexicon as a window into cognition across the lifespan
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1075/ml.8.3.08ram
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/ml.8.3.08ram
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © John Benjamins 2013. Please contact the publisher directly for permission to re-use or reprint the material in any form.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473284
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