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Psychol Aging. 1994 Sep;9(3):339-55.

Sensory functioning and intelligence in old age: a strong connection.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education, Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany.


Relations among age, sensory functioning (i.e., visual and auditory acuity), and intelligence were examined in a heterogeneous, age-stratified sample of old and very old individuals (N = 156, M age = 84.9 years, age range = 70-103). Intelligence was assessed with 14 tests measuring 5 cognitive abilities (speed, reasoning, memory, knowledge, and fluency). Together, visual and auditory acuity accounted for 49.2% of the total and 93.1% of the age-related reliable variance in intelligence. The data were consistent with structural models in which age differences in intelligence, including speed, are completely mediated by differences in vision and hearing. Results suggest that sensory functioning is a strong late-life predictor of individual differences in intellectual functioning. Explanations are discussed, including the possibility that visual and sensory acuity are indicators of the physiological integrity of the aging brain (common cause hypothesis).

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