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Psychol Bull. 1997 Nov;122(3):231-49.

Meta-analyses of age-cognition relations in adulthood: estimates of linear and nonlinear age effects and structural models.

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Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Belgium.


A meta-analysis was conducted on 91 studies to derive a correlation matrix for adult age, speed of processing, primary-working memory, episodic memory, reasoning, and spatial ability. Structural equation modeling with a single latent common cognitive factor showed that all cognitive measures shared substantial portions of age-related variance. A mediational model revealed that speed of processing and primary-working memory appear to be important mediators of age-related differences in the other measures. However, not all of the age-related influences were mediated. An examination of quadratic age effects and correlational patterns for subsamples under and over 50 years of age revealed that (a) negative age-cognition relations were significant for the 18- to 50-year-old sample and (b) the age-related decline accelerated significantly over the adult life span for variables assessing speed, reasoning, and episodic memory.

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