How Do Old People Know What to Do Next?

  • Patrick M. A. Rabbitt
Part of the Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect book series (ASCA, volume 8)


A very large, though fragmentary and disconnected, literature shows that as people grow old their cognitive efficiency declines. Gerontologists try to specify the precise details of this decline, to calibrate its relative extent in various components of cognition function, and to understand the nature of the changes which bring it about. To do this they have traditionally depended on empirical techniques and functional models of cognitive performance developed by human experimental psychologists working with normal young adults. There are signs that this dependence has now become so complete that it stifles original work. This has not occurred because of the lethargy or dullness of gerontologists but rather because the models currently used by human experimental psychologists have a particular crucial, and very general, limitation. They are all models for steady-state systems working under optimal conditions in the able young. They do not allow us to describe the nature of changes in human performance. Gerontologists are primarily concerned with descriptions and explanations of change.


Visual Search Selective Attention Repetition Effect Choice Reaction Time Scanning Strategy 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick M. A. Rabbitt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of DurhamDurhamEngland

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