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Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Formal reasoning in late adulthood: The role of semantic content and metacognitive strategy

  • Richard D. Pollack
  • Willis F. Overton
  • Anita Rosenfeld
  • Richard Rosenfeld
Article

Abstract

Two experiments explored the availability of deductive or formal reasoning in late adulthood. In Experiment 1, fifty young (M=19.0 years) and 50 elderly adults (M=81.0 years) were assessed using adaptations of Wason's selection task and rated task content for familiarity, affect, and agreement. In Experiment 2, 100 young (M=21.0 years) and 100 elderly adults (M=81.0 years) were similarly assessed, with half of the subjects in each age group receiving a metacognitive strategy to facilitate reasoning. Results from Experiment 1 indicated equivalent reasoning among the groups on problems employed in earlier developmental research. In contrast, problems constructed to entail affect resulted in poorer performance by older adults. In Experiment 2, both young and older adults who used the metacognitive strategy reasoned equally acrossall problems. In both experiments, familiarity and agreement did not play a role in deductive reasoning performance, but affect seemed to be an interfering factor. Results are discussed in terms of competence-procedure and stability-decrement models of adult cognitive development.

Key words

Reasoning adulthood semantic content metacognition 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard D. Pollack
    • 1
  • Willis F. Overton
    • 2
  • Anita Rosenfeld
    • 3
  • Richard Rosenfeld
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMerrimack CollegeNorth Andover
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphia
  3. 3.Lower Merion Counseling ServicesArdmore
  4. 4.Department of Internal MedicineKaiser PermanenteLongview

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