Effects of processing style and age on schema acquisition

Gabriel K. Rousseau, Wendy A. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Age differences in schema acquisition were examined using a task in which participants read paragraphs about a character and learned to predict his behavior. Successful performance depended on learning which information in the paragraphs was related to the behavior. Because these predictive traits were arbitrarily selected, prior experience was of no benefit. Twenty-eight young adults (ages 18 to 25) and 28 older adults (ages 60 to 80) participated in this experiment. The young adults performed better overall than the older adults. However, when we reexamined the data by considering processing style (i.e., whether individuals relied on a data-driven or conceptually driven processing style), we found that young and older adults who tested specific hypotheses were similar, whereas the older adults who tried to rely on general impressions performed poorly. Findings indicate that it is critical to determine how people approach cognitive tasks and that some older adults are likely to engage in conceptually driven processing regardless of its relevance to a particular task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)P11-P18
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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