Differential Patterns of Change

There is no uniform pattern of age-related changes across all intellectual abilities. Studies of overall intellectual ability (IQ) are therefore insufficient to monitor age changes and age differences in intellectual functioning for either individuals or groups. Age difference work with the WAIS suggests that verbal abilities are maintained well, whereas performance tests show early age differences favoring younger adults. Longitudinal data on the WAIS also show high levels of stability of verbal behaviors into advanced old age, whereas performance scores begin to decline in midlife. Studies of the primary mental abilities indicate that active or fluid abilities tend to decline earlier than passive or crystallized abilities. These findings are complicated by ability-by-age and ability-by-cohort interactions. For example, women tend to decline earlier in the active abilities, whereas men do so on the passive abilities. Although fluid abilities begin to decline earlier, crystallized abilities appear to show steeper decrement once the late 70s are reached.

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