New ACL Publication: Experimental Aging Research

Background/Study Context: This study evaluated adult age differences in the original three-item Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT; Frederick, 2005, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19, 25–42) and an expanded seven-item version of that test (Toplak et al., 2013, Thinking and Reasoning, 20, 147–168). The CRT is a numerical problem-solving test thought to capture a disposition towards either rapid, intuition-based problem solving (Type I reasoning) or a more thoughtful, analytical problem-solving approach (Type II reasoning). Test items are designed to induce heuristically guided errors that can be avoided if using an appropriate numerical representation of the test problems.

Methods: We evaluated differences between young adults and old adults in CRT performance and correlates of CRT performance. Older adults (ages 60 to 80) were paid volunteers who participated in experiments assessing age differences in self-regulated learning. Young adults (ages 17 to 35) were students participating for pay as part of a project assessing measures of critical thinking skills or as a young comparison group in the self-regulated learning study.

Results: There were age differences in the number of CRT correct responses in two independent samples. Results with the original three-item CRT found older adults to have a greater relative proportion of errors based on providing the intuitive lure. However, younger adults actually had a greater proportion of intuitive errors on the long version of the CRT, relative to older adults. Item analysis indicated a much lower internal consistency of CRT items for older adults.

Conclusion: These outcomes do not offer full support for the argument that older adults are higher in the use of a “Type I” cognitive style. The evidence was also consistent with an alternative hypothesis that age differences were due to lower levels of numeracy in the older samples. Alternative process-oriented evaluations of how older adults solve CRT items will probably be needed to determine conditions under which older adults manifest an increase in the Type I dispositional tendency to opt for superficial, heuristically guided problem representations in numerical problem-solving tasks.


Hertzog, C., Smith, R. M., & Ariel, R. (2017). Does the Cognitive Reflection Test actually capture heuristic versus analytic reasoning styles in older adults?. Experimental aging research, 1-17.

New ACL Publication: Psychology and Aging


The importance of encoding strategies for associative recall is well established, but there have been no studies of aging and intraindividual variability (IAV) in strategy use during extended practice. We observed strategy use and cued-recall test performance over 101 days of practice in 101 younger adults (M = 25.6 years) and 103 older adults (M = 71.3 years) sandwiched by a pretest and posttest battery including an associative recall test. Each practice session included 2 lists of 12 number-noun paired-associate (PA) items (e.g., 23-DOGS), presented for brief exposures titrated to maintain below-ceiling performance throughout practice. Participants reported strategy use (e.g., rote repetition, imagery) after each test. Substantial IAV in strategy use was detected that was coupled with performance; lists studied with normatively effective strategies (e.g., imagery) generated higher PA recall than lists studied with less effective strategies (e.g., rote repetition). In comparison to younger adults, older adults’ practice (a) relied more on repetition and less on effective strategies, (b) showed lower levels of IAV in effective strategy use, and (c) had lower within-person strategy–recall coupling, especially late in practice. Individual differences in pretest-posttest gains in PA recall were predicted by average level of effective strategy use in young adults but by strategy–recall coupling in older adults. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that experiencing variability in strategic outcomes during practice helps hone the effectiveness of strategic encoding behavior, and that older adults’ reduced degree of pretest-posttest gains is influenced by lower likelihood of using and optimizing effective strategies through practice.


Hertzog, C., Lövdén, M., Lindenberger, U., & Schmiedek, F. (2017). Age differences in coupling of intraindividual variability in mnemonic strategies and practice-related associative recall improvements. Psychology and aging32(6), 557.

New ACL Publication: Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics



The goal of the present research was to examine the potential of a learner-oriented approach to improving older adults’ performance in tasks that are similar to real-life situations that require strategic deployment of cognitive resources. A crucial element of this approach involves encouraging older adults to explicitly analyze tasks to consider how to adapt trained skills to a new task context. In an earlier study, a specialist-directed intervention produced training gains and transfer to some untrained memory tasks.


In the present study, older adults received a manual instructing them about principles of task analysis, two memory strategies, and strategy adaptation. Self-guided strategy-adaption training involved practicing some memory tasks as well as instructions on how the trained skills could be applied to new tasks that were not practiced. The criterion tasks involved practice tasks, non-practiced tasks that were discussed in the manual, and transfer tasks that were never mentioned in the manual. Two of the tests were from the Everyday Cognition Battery (inductive reasoning and working memory).


As compared to a waiting-list control group, older adults assigned to self-guided strategy-adaption training showed memory improvements on tasks that were practiced or discussed during training. Most important, the learner-oriented approach produced transfer to the everyday tasks.


Our findings show the potential of instructing task appraisal processes as a basis for fostering transfer, including improving older adults’ performance in simulated everyday tasks.


Bottiroli, S., Cavallini, E., Dunlosky, J., Vecchi, T., & Hertzog, C. (2017). Self-guided strategy-adaption training for older adults: transfer effects to everyday tasks. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

New ACL Publication: Gerontology


Background: An important aspect of successful aging is maintaining the ability to solve everyday problems encountered in daily life. The limited evidence today suggests that everyday problem solving ability increases from young adulthood to middle age, but decreases in older age. Objectives: The present study examined age differences in the relative contributions of fluid and crystallized abilities to solving problems on the Everyday Problems Test (EPT). We hypothesized that due to diminishing fluid resources available with advanced age, crystallized knowledge would become increasingly important in predicting everyday problem solving with greater age. Method: Two hundred and twenty-one healthy adults from the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, aged 24-93 years, completed a cognitive battery that included measures of fluid ability (i.e., processing speed, working memory, inductive reasoning) and crystallized ability (i.e., multiple measures of vocabulary). These measures were used to predict performance on EPT. Results: Everyday problem solving showed an increase in performance from young to early middle age, with performance beginning to decrease at about age of 50 years. As hypothesized, fluid ability was the primary predictor of performance on everyday problem solving for young adults, but with increasing age, crystallized ability became the dominant predictor. Conclusion: This study provides evidence that everyday problem solving ability differs with age, and, more importantly, that the processes underlying it differ with age as well. The findings indicate that older adults increasingly rely on knowledge to support everyday problem solving, whereas young adults rely almost exclusively on fluid intelligence.


Chen, X., Hertzog, C., & Park, D. C. (2017). Cognitive Predictors of Everyday Problem Solving across the Lifespan. Gerontology63(4), 372-384.

New ACL publication: Acta Psychologica


We propose that the domain general process of categorization contributes to the perception of stress. When a situation contains features associated with stressful experiences, it is categorized as stressful. From the perspective of situated cognition, the features used to categorize experiences as stressful are the features typically true of stressful situations. To test this hypothesis, we asked participants to evaluate the perceived stress of 572 imagined situations, and to also evaluate each situation for how much it possessed 19 features potentially associated with stressful situations and their processing (e.g., self-threat, familiarity, visual imagery, outcome certainty). Following variable reduction through factor analysis, a core set of 8 features associated with stressful situations—expectation violation, self-threat, coping efficacy, bodily experience, arousal, negative valence, positive valence, and perseveration—all loaded on a single Core Stress Features factor. In a multilevel model, this factor and an Imagery factor explained 88% of the variance in judgments of perceived stress, with significant random effects reflecting differences in how individual participants categorized stress. These results support the hypothesis that people categorize situations as stressful to the extent that typical features of stressful situations are present. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to establish a comprehensive set of features that predicts perceived stress.


Lebois, L. A., Hertzog, C., Slavich, G. M., Barrett, L. F., & Barsalou, L. W. (2016). Establishing the situated features associated with perceived stress. Acta Psychologica, 169, 119-132.

New ACL publication: Brain and Cognition


Although the hippocampus is thought to play a central role in the regulation of the cortisol awakening response (CAR), results from past studies examining the relationship between the CAR and hippocampal-mediated memory and cognition have been mixed. Inconsistent findings may be due to the use of cortisol samples collected on only 1–2 days since reduced sampling can permit unstable situational factors to bias results. We used cortisol assessments from 10 consecutive days to test the relationship of the CAR to episodic memory, working memory, and processing speed in a sample of healthy young, middle-aged, and older adults (age range: 23–79 years; N = 56). We tested if the relationship between the CAR and cognition would depend upon age and also tested if other cortisol measures, specifically waking cortisol, diurnal cortisol output (i.e., area under the curve) and diurnal cortisol slope (linear and quadratic), would be related to cognition. We found that a more positive CAR slope was related to better episodic memory and that this relationship did not depend upon age. The CAR was not significantly related to working memory. The relationship of the CAR to processing speed was not significant when using a CAR measure that corrected for non-compliant cortisol sampling. We also found that higher waking cortisol was significantly related to better working memory, but not episodic memory or processing speed. Neither diurnal cortisol output nor diurnal linear cortisol slope was significantly related to cognitive functioning. Future work should investigate the mechanisms underpinning the relationship of the cortisol awakening process to cognitive functioning.


Ennis, G. E., Moffat, S. D., & Hertzog, C. (2016). The cortisol awakening response and cognition across the adult lifespan. Brain and Cognition, 105, 66-77.

New ACL publication: Gerontology


Background: Previous studies have examined the relationships between physical health and leisure activities and between leisure activities and well-being, but, to our knowledge, none has examined these relationships simultaneously.

Objective: This study investigated the relationships between leisure activities, health and well-being considering the role of age, and whether leisure activities mediate the relationship between physical health and well-being.

Methods: Utilizing a cross-sectional database of 259 adults (ages 18–81 years) who completed several questionnaires, linear regression models and mediation models were tested. Results: Regression analyses indicated that physical health was related to leisure activities and leisure activities were related to well-being. When physical health was measured by subjective ratings, age had a stronger relationship with leisure activities. However, when physical health was indicated by health restrictions, physical health had a stronger relationship with leisure activities than did age. Leisure activities were a partial mediator of the relationship between physical health and well-being.

Conclusion: The results demonstrated that the reduction in leisure activities with age has more to do with physical health limitations than with older age itself. In addition, regardless of age, the benefits of physical health for well-being are due in part to the level of leisure activity participation. These results highlight the importance of leisure activities for successful aging throughout the adult life span. Interventions designed to improve well-being through increasing leisure activity participation should take physical health into consideration, particularly for older adults.


Paggi, M. E., Jopp, D., & Hertzog, C. (2016). The importance of leisure activities in the relationship between physical health and well-being in a life span sample. Gerontology, 62, 450-458.

New ACL publication: Memory & Aging


Value-based remembering in free-recall tasks may be spared from the typical age-related cognitive decline observed for episodic memory. However, it is unclear whether value-based remembering for associative information is also spared from age-related cognitive decline. The current experiments evaluated the contribution of agenda-based based regulation and strategy use during study to age differences and similarities in value-based remembering of associative information. Participants studied word pairs (Experiments 1–2) or single words (Experiment 2) slated with different point values by moving a mouse controlled cursor to different spatial locations to reveal either items for study or the point value associated with remembering each item. Some participants also provided strategy reports for each item. Younger and older adults allocated greater time to studying high- than low-valued information, reported using normatively effective encoding strategies to learn high-valued pairs, and avoided study of low-valued pairs. As a consequence, both age groups selectively remembered more high- than low-valued items. Despite nearly identical regulatory behavior, an associative memory deficit for older adults was present for high-valued pairs. Age differences in value-based remembering did not occur when the materials were word lists. Fluid intelligence also moderated the effectiveness of older adults’ strategy use for high-valued pairs (Experiment 2). These results suggest that age differences in associative value-based remembering may be due to some older adults’ gleaning less benefit from using normatively effective encoding strategies rather than age differences in metacognitive self-regulation per se.


Ariel, R., Price, J., & Hertzog, C. (2015). Age-related associative memory deficits in value-based remembering: The contribution of agenda-based regulation and strategy use. Psychology and aging, 30(4), 795.


External link