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Psychol Aging. 1986 Jun;1(2):172-7.

Reserve capacity of the elderly in aging-sensitive tests of fluid intelligence: replication and extension.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education, Berlin, FRG.


Fluid intelligence belongs to that cluster of intellectual abilities evincing aging loss. To examine further the range of intellectual reserve available to aging individuals and the question of replicability in a new cultural and laboratory setting, 204 healthy older adults (mean age = 72 years; range = 60-86) participated in a short-term longitudinal training study. For experimental subjects, 10 sessions consisted of cognitive training involving two subability tests (Figural Relations, Induction) of fluid intelligence. The pattern of outcomes replicates and expands on earlier studies. Older adults have the reserve to evince substantial increases in levels of performance in fluid intelligence tests. Transfer of training, however, is narrow in scope. Training also increases accuracy of performance and the ability to solve more difficult test items. Difficulty level was estimated in a separate study, with a comparable sample of N = 112 elderly adults. Future research is suggested to examine whether intellectual reserve extends to near-maximum levels of performance.

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