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How does age affect your cognitive abilities?

Written by Diane Archer

A recent study published in Psychological Science, by Laura Germine and Joshua Harshorne, looks at the age at which different types of cognitive abilities peak across a person’s lifespan. There’s no single answer. Not surprisingly, older adults are better at tests that involve experience and practice than younger adults.

In brief, the researchers find a lot of age variability depending upon the particular cognitive ability.  Some of these abilities peak and may even begin to decline in high school; others don’t peak until early adulthood; and, still others don’t peak until people’s 40s or later.  According to the authors, “not only is there no age at which humans are performing at peak on all cognitive tasks, there may not be an age at which humans perform at peak on most cognitive tasks.”

Older adults tend to be better at math, vocabulary, and comprehension. They are also better at judging people’s emotions by looking in their eyes. Younger people do better on memory tests.

There are many ways to keep your mental skills strong: Click here to find out what to eat to reduce your risk of dementia. Click here to learn about how lifestyle changes affect cognition. Click here to learn how walkable communities are good for your memory. And, click here to read about a Social Security-based policy solution for improving mental functioning in older adults.



  • I had a near perfect memory at 20, I could easily memorize advanced mathematical formula, but lacking in interpersonal and cognitive skills. Age 51 was the apex, excellent cognitive skills,good interpersonal social skills, but with a somewhat reduced memory. My best age by far, Age 51. My engineering projects are still state of the art after nearly 30 years and are still saving lives on the field of battle. reduced memory is more than compensated by the increased ability to make use of years of experience.

  • All this info re: social security and older age benefits is interesting; but where were all these wizards when I pulled the plug 24 years ago??? Bye now!

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