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How Do Cognitive Functions Change with Age?

How do our memory, attention, coordination and other cognitive abilities develop? What are the cognitive characteristics of children, adults and the elderly? Can you develop and improve your cognitive skills? How Can Seniors Maintain Cognitive Abilities? In this article, we will tell you about how human cognitive functions change with age.

How Do a Child’s Cognitive Abilities Develop?

As soon as a youngster develops emotional contact with an adult, he or she begins to learn how to manage items with his or her assistance. He discovers both the evident and the hidden qualities of them.

When it comes to cognition, the period between one and three years of age is when things really take off in terms of development. To make matters worse, the toddler takes everything in his hands and tries to get his hands on the most intriguing objects from the farthest shelves. He does, however, require it for his proper growth. It is because of this that he is exposed to more of the environment and so develops visual-active thinking.

When he interacts with items and objects, he learns how to address the problem in the real world. As a child’s capacity to walk and speak develops, so does their ability to communicate with each other.

The youngster is now of preschool age, and his primary activity is playing with other children. It would appear that playing games is a waste of time and only serves to offer a carefree childhood. Although this may be the case, it’s not the case. Children’s games are essential for the appropriate growth of a kid, both in terms of social skills and cognitive development.

Preschoolers learn social conventions and regulations through play, which is a reproduction of human action. The ability to plan and control one’s actions in the future is one of the most important traits that are acquired during play and directly influences the development of cognitive processes.

As regards thinking, visual-figurative thinking, i.e., the capacity to solve a problem by visualizing things and circumstances rather of manipulating them, comes into play here in addition to visual-effective thinking.

How Do Cognitive Functions Change with Age? 

Conceptual intelligence is developed at a young age, when a kid begins to grasp the reasons of events and develops the ability to reason. It’s also around this age when imagination really takes off. In addition, substantial changes are taking place in the structure of the child’s memory; he learns to employ signs and memorizing methods, which considerably extends his capacities.

Children who are six years old are ready for school because they have developed all of their senses, including memory, attention, imagination and speaking.

Scientific notions provide the foundation of instructional activities. Verbal-logical thinking, an arbitrary semantic memory (figurative and verbal), voluntary attention, and writing are some of the skills students develop in school.

When a pupil learns to analyse, they are able to separate the pieces of a whole into its constituent elements. Developing abstract and divergent thinking is a crucial milestone in education, as it allows students to focus on the key qualities of an object while abstracting from its visual characteristics (which is the basis of creative thinking). Teenagers are also beginning to develop what is known as a “cognitive style,” which refers to the establishment of a set of consistent mental processes for recalling and processing information.

It’s at this point that the majority of cognitive processes have been developed. In the future, there will be a transition into professional activity, the development of specific talents and abilities, and the maintenance of an intellectual level.

Cognitive Function in Adults

Only until the age of 21 does the human brain actively develop, but this does not mean that we should give up on furthering our cognitive abilities. Higher mental activity helps to keep cognitive abilities at a high level for a longer period of time since it stimulates brain cells to operate more actively and build new connections.

As we become older, our capacity to solve new issues and reason logically diminishes, so it’s crucial to keep this in mind while planning your future. In contrast, a person’s subject-matter intelligence, which is the capacity to utilise their acquired knowledge and abilities, grows with age.

How are cognitive functions affected by ageing? As we become older, we tend to retain most of our mental talents. As we become older, our brains become less efficient in processing new information at a rapid pace.

As we become older, our short-term and long-term memory functions don’t alter much, but our long-term memory does. In the elderly, tertiary memory is essentially unaffected.

One of the benefits of growing older is the development of wisdom, which broadens a person’s perspective on life’s realities and enables them to deal with it more effectively.

Causes Of

Cognitive decline is most commonly brought on by Alzheimer’s disease and stroke in the elderly. Most prominent among the secondary reasons are poverty and the worsening health of older people. It’s not uncommon for dementia and the related personality changes to occur together as people get older.

Mental or mental health issues that may be addressed might contribute to symptoms such as confusion, blackouts, and disorientated conduct. Dementia patients with Alzheimer’s disease account for almost half of all cases. Dysfunctionality of the body’s critical systems causes death in the last stages of the condition, when patients are fully bewildered and lost in their own minds.

A major contributor to dementia is the occurrence of strokes and micro strokes. There are a variety of elements that might influence an older person’s cognitive function. These include their own psychological well-being and expectations.

Poor physical health, poor diet, excessive drinking, medication side effects, and lack of mental stimulation are all risk factors for cognitive decline in older adults.

According to the results of the MIDUS (Midlife in the United States Survey) study, there are differences in cognitive function based on age, gender, and educational attainment. For instance, it is reported that older persons can execute some activities and younger study participants, but in general, they generally need more time to finish them.

Scientific experiment: what are the characteristics of the cognitive sphere in older people?

How does cognitive function change with age? We carried out a study aimed at identifying the attributive styles of subjects of retirement age and studying the characteristics of their cognitive sphere.

An attributive style or style of explanation is a cognitive personality characteristic that reflects a consistent way of explaining the cause of events in which subjects are involved.

The study involved 30 people of retirement age (60-70 years). All subjects did not have serious somatic diseases.

To identify attributive styles, we used the Retelling technique. The subjects were asked to state the key thoughts and ideas of the work of art. The “Parable of Love and Age” was used as a working material. To study the peculiarities of the cognitive sphere, the “Confused lines” methodology and the Bourdon test were applied.

During testing, we received the following results. The subjects were divided into 3 groups during the “Retelling” technique implementation. The first group included those respondents who saw the positive message of the text. Their retelling included the idea that everything would be fine; they perceived the feeling of love as something bright and meaningful, inextricably linked with the concept of age. This group included 16 subjects (53% of the respondents).

The second group included subjects who perceived this story as sad or stupid. The respondents could not find a positive message; in their opinion, the story’s content has nothing to do with reality. The retelling of the subjects of this group contained negatively colored thoughts that did not directly connect with the plot of the text. This group included 12 subjects (40% of respondents)

The third group included respondents who refused to complete the proposed task, citing the stupidity and frivolity of the proposed story. There were only 2 respondents in this group.

The subjects showed an approach to the pole of abstract conceptualization; all the respondents’ answers were presented in the form of a response to this story while containing various explanations of the plot based on the personal experience of the subjects. A banal retelling of the plot was presented only by three subjects, but even these retellings contained a personal conclusion.

It should also be noted that, despite the increased reaction time characteristic of the older age group, all subjects who performed the technique reacted quickly to instructions, provided timely answers, continued to uncover the value issue stated in the original plot of the text.

The following results were obtained in carrying out the method “Confused lines”: out of 30 subjects, 9 people did not make a single mistake while completing the task. Sixteen subjects completed the task correctly by 90% or more. The indicator of the rest of the subjects turned out to be below 90%, while the lowest value turned out to be 55% of the tasks performed correctly.

Therefore, we can conclude that the concentration of visual attention of subjects of retirement age is very high; the same can be said about the level of stability of attention, which confirms the high accuracy of the technique.

The “Proof test” method showed that the productivity of the respondents’ attention deteriorates with each next session. At the same time, it should be noted that the initial indicator of the concentration of attention obtained during the first session is also very low.

Considering the accuracy of the task, we can conclude that, in general, this indicator corresponds to the average rank. However, with each subsequent minute, the indicator increases, from which we can conclude that people of retirement age need time to get involved in the proposed activity and achieve optimal results.

The tendency to initially perceive information as positive or negative becomes the basis for the general mood and corresponding behavior. So, with a positive outlook on what is happening, the older adult has a positive attitude towards himself, and his behavior is characterized by social activity.

At the same time, accepting any information by a person rather than negative, aggressive is associated with the need to deal with discomfort and dangerBehavior, in this case, is based on the desire to reduce the number of contacts with the outside world due to a lack of confidence in their capabilities.


The results of the relationship between attributive style and cognitive functioning are interesting. Thus, the obtained connections allow, despite the small sample size, to talk about the undoubted influence of the attributive style on cognitive functioning, as well as about fundamentally different mechanisms that contribute to and hinder the effective operation of these processes. However, the results obtained do not give a complete picture and only outline new research directions.

This study aims to study an extremely urgent problem for the psychology of ageing – the role of subjective and personal characteristics in maintaining optimal cognitive functioning.

Despite the small sample size, the study confirmed that the role of individual psychological characteristics in old age increases and affects almost all areas of mental functioning. Also, the results obtained, with appropriate clarifications, open up broad prospects for advisory and corrective work.

About Zahid Shaukat

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