As we age, we tend to become more forgetful and perhaps less quick-thinking. It’s one of those less desirable parts of aging, but it may not affect us as much as we once thought.
A new study by psychologists at Heidelberg University suggests that, contrary to popular belief, cognitive processing doesn’t peek at age 20 and then decline.
Instead, they discovered that cognitive processing doesn’t really slow down until after age 60!
The study was published in Nature Human Behaviour and found that cognitive processing speeds, also known as mental speeds, are maintained until around age 60, at which point they showed signs of slowing down.
The authors of the study used existing data from a previous American study that looked at over one million subjects.
While the original study asked subjects to respond to online tasks that could measure implicit bias, the new study took the data and determined how quickly subjects responded to the questions and prompts and how thoughtful their answers were.
Based on the data, the researchers found that cognitive processing speeds were consistent among age groups, until around age 60 when the speeds seemed to decline. Some older individuals that were younger than 60 did take more time to respond to the questions but researchers believe that had more to do with their level of thoughtfulness in answering the questions, rather than their mental speeds and cognitive processing abilities.
In a press release, study author Mischa von Krause stated: “It looks as though, in the course of our life, we don’t need to fear any substantial losses of mental speed – particularly not in the course of a typical working life.”