The phenomenon of age-related cognitive decline has long been controversial, both in terms of mere existence, and with respect to how it is explained. Some researchers have dismissed it as an artifact of declining health or lower levels of education, and others have attributed it to general changes occurring in the external environment. Still other interpretations have been based on the "use it or lose it" principle -- known as the Disuse Hypothesis -- or on the idea that there are qualitative differences in either the structure or the process of cognition across the adult years. Perhaps the most popular approach at present relies on the information-processing perspective and attempts to identify the critical processing component most responsible for age-related differences in cognition.
The primary purposes of this book are first to review the evidence of age-related differences in cognitive functioning and then to evaluate the major explanations proposed to account for the negative relations between age and cognition that have been established. Included is a discussion of theoretical dimensions and levels of scientific theorizing assumed to be helpful in understanding and evaluating alternative perspectives on cognitive aging. The various perspectives are then covered in detail and analyzed. The text concludes with observations about the progress that has been made in explaining cognitive aging phenomena, plus recommendations for research practices that might contribute to greater progress in the future.
"The important contribution of this book is its critical analysis of the different frameworks explaining cognitive aging….This book should be read by anyone doing or considering research in the field of cognitive aging."
"Salthouse provides a needed authoritative overview and theoretical synthesis of research on cognitive aging….A definitive reference work…"
"Salthouse's scholarship is encyclopedic. Every chapter is chock-full of quotations and references. Readers who consider themselves expert in some topic will be grateful for citations of studies they have missed….Every theoretical issue is meticulously dissected….Problems in conceptualizing issues are laid out with greater clarity than….in any other volume on cognitive aging. The discussions of the environmental change and disuse perspectives are particularly noteworthy in these respects. This is a volume that no researcher in cognitive aging can afford to miss."
—The Amercian Journal of Psychology
"…a major scholarly achievement….I view this provocative and excellent volume as must reading for anyone conducting research in cognitive aging."
—Behavior, Health, and Aging
Contents: The Need for, and Requirements of, Theories of Cognitive Aging. What Needs to Be Explained? Environmental Change. Disuse Interpretations. Qualitative Differences: Structures, Strategies, and the Relation Between Competence and Performance. Analytical Approaches to Localization: I. Memory Abilities. Analytical Approaches to Localization: II. Reasoning and Spatial Abilities. Reduced Processing Resources. Final Words and Future Directions.