Relational integration in older adults

Thinking and Reasoning 11 (4):390 – 410 (2005)


Reasoning requires making inferences based on information gleaned from a set of relations. The relational complexity of a problem increases with the number of relations that must be considered simultaneously to make a correct inference. Previous work (Viskontas, Morrison, Holyoak, Hummel, & Knowlton, 2004) has shown that older adults have difficulty integrating multiple relations during analogical reasoning, especially when required to inhibit irrelevant information. We report two experiments that examined the ability to integrate multiple relations in younger, middle-aged, and older adults performing two other reasoning tasks. These tasks systematically varied relational complexity, and required either inductive reasoning (a version of the Raven's Matrices Task) or transitive inference. Our results show that as people age they have increasing difficulty in solving problems that require them to integrate multiple relations. This difficulty may stem from a decrease in working memory capacity.

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