Age and flexible thinking: An experimental demonstration of the beneficial effects of increased cognitively stimulating activity on fluid intelligence in healthy older adults

Lesley J. Tranter, Wilma Koutstaal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations

Abstract

The disuse hypothesis of cognitive aging attributes decrements in fluid intelligence in older adults to reduced cognitively stimulating activity. This study experimentally tested the hypothesis that a period of increased mentally stimulating activities thus would enhance older adults' fluid intelligence performance. Participants (N = 44, mean age 67.82) were administered pre- and post-test measures, including the fluid intelligence measure, Cattell's Culture Fair (CCF) test. Experimental participants engaged in diverse, novel, mentally stimulating activities for 10-12 weeks and were compared to a control condition. Results supported the hypothesis; the experimental group showed greater pre- to post-CCF gain than did controls (effect size d = 0.56), with a similar gain on a spatial-perceptual task (WAIS-R Blocks). Even brief periods of increased cognitive stimulation can improve older adults' problem solving and flexible thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-207
Number of pages24
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008

Keywords

  • Disuse theory of cognitive aging
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Fluid intelligence
  • Neuronal plasiticity
  • Successful aging

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