Normative Cognitive Slowing: Exploring the Phenomenon.


2013 Ohio Association of Gerontology and Education Conference


A well-known phenomenon that is experienced with normative aging is the slowing of processing speed as it relates to various cognitive tasks. This phenomenon, known as cognitive slowing can be utilized to describe functional differences across many domains. Verhaeghen et al. (1998), in describing cognitive slowing's relationship specifically with memory, stated, “aging brings about slowing in elementary cognitive processing, which in turn has a negative impact on memory performance”. Similar trends are seen in other domains as the slowing of processing speed is purported to be responsible for or exacerbate deficits in levels of functioning in cognitive tasks as individuals age. Support for these trends can be found in such other domains as visualization, psychomotor speed, & verbal fluency (Salthouse 2001), inhibitory function and attentional capacity (Hartley, 2006), and reasoning and spatial orientation (Salthouse, 2009) among others. While these findings typically involve the analysis of correlated variables, they have been able to provide a valuable framework in attempting to understand cognitive processes related to aging. The following discussion will begin by addressing the functional domains of the cognitive slowing phenomena with selected empirical support. From there, facets of research design such as structural modeling and issues of cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses will be explored. I will conclude by addressing possible biological substrates that have been hypothesized to be responsible for cognitive slowing and examine ways that individuals accommodate to maintain levels of functioning and well-being.


James R. Houston