Cognitive aging is widely recognized as a process characterized by mental loss (Wilson, Bennett, & Swartzendruber, 1997). In relation to this, two existing perspectives regarding the relation of cognitive impairment and aging exists. An optimistic view of the correlation between the two states that poorer memory in old age arises from inefficient encoding and retrieval strategies. A less optimistic one, on the other hand, states that declining memory is a consequence of irreversible age-related changes in basic mechanisms underlying cognition (Smith, 2007, p. 136).As opposed to their take on the relationship between cognitive impairment and aging, both perspectives are based upon the following assumptions: (1) Older persons experience decline in cognitive functioning.
(2) Diseases that lead to the impairment of the cognitive function are partly accountable for the decline. (3) A relation exists in terms o...
f the individual’s level of formal education and the level of the cognitive decline and lastly (4) cognitive decline is highly evident in activities necessitating the use of declarative memory, processing abilities, and perceptual speed as well as working memory (Wilson, R., Benett, D. , & Swartzendruber, A., 1997, p. 9-10).In lieu of this, the goal of this paper is to present an analysis regarding the relation between cognitive impairment and aging during the midlife. The paper is based on the assumption that memory and cognitive functioning can be improved and maintained throughout the aging process by means of utilizing various control strategies that enable the development of awareness as to an individual’s level of cognitive control.
Such an assumption stems from the recognition that self-efficacy as to one’s cognitive capacities is influenced by an individual’s awareness of his cognitive performance (Lachma
& Leff, 1989). What follows is a discussion of the general assumptions as to the role of the development and awareness of self-efficacy towards improving an individual’s cognitive performance. The Function of the Recognition of Memory Self-Efficacy in the Improvement of Cognitive Performance.Cognitive impairment refers to the substantial decline from a previously higher level of cognitive functioning.
Clinical determination of cognitive impairment is usually based upon the following evidence: (1) change in cognitively mediated social or occupational functioning, (2) discrepancy between current test performance and demographically based estimates of past performance, as well as (3) discrepancy between current performance on age sensitive and age insensitive tests (Wilson, R. , Benett, D., & Swartzendruber, A. , 1997, p. 10).In the determination of the role of memory self-efficacy in cognitive impairments, the focus amongst the evidential factors mentioned lays on the discrepancy as to an individual’s performance compared to his/her self perceived cognitive capacities. Studies have shown that beliefs regarding memory abilities is a determining factor in the development of memory self-efficacy (Bandura, 1989; Berry, 1989; Berry et al, 1989; Cavanaugh & Green 1990; Miller & Lachman, 1999). According to such studies, a general perception exists as to individuals’ presumed assumption that aging leads to the degradation of memory abilities.
Generally, such perspectives stem from individual’s subjective observations heightened by the propagation of cultural aspects that enable the development of such a correlation between memory decline and aging (Light, 1999, p. 338). The reason in which an individual’s associations has an impact on their cognitive capacities can be understood if one considers that individual beliefs about one’s own abilities and capacities as well as individual beliefs about the roles
of factors outside the self has a direct influence on the outcomes produced by the self with these set of beliefs (Miller & Lachman, 1999, p.18).
The above stated explanation as to the role of beliefs in self-determination was utilized by Lachman & Weaver (1998) in the formation of the notion of control beliefs. Within the framework of control beliefs, Lachman considers self-efficacy as a component in the control of self-beliefs. Lachman states that self-beliefs function in determining self-efficacy in such a way that “self-beliefs about abilities and capabilities combined with beliefs about the nature of the task produce self-efficacy expectations” which affects the performance of the task at hand (2000, p.10).It is important to note the role of personal agency in the concept of self-efficacy. Agency is a necessary condition for developing well being since it assumes the existence of rationality as well as the possession of control over one’s self.
Successful aging necessity the possession of such a control since the quality of life is dependent upon having the ability to control one’s faculties specifically one’s memory. In line with this, the function of agency in an individual’s life is heightened during the midlife period.It is argued that the midlife is the “time of peak performance in many different areas of functioning” (Miller & Lachman, 2000, p. 69).
In lieu of this, the following section focuses on the on the general aspects connected with the midlife period. The discussion of such is necessary in order to develop an understanding as to the other factors involved in the development of cognitive abilities during the midlife period. The Cognitive and Social Aspects Connected with the Development of the
Self during the Midlife Period.The ambiguity of the term midlife partially stems from the nonexistence of a specific ascription of meaning as to the period to which the term “midlife” refers. Although the age of 30 may be seen as a cultural marker of adulthood, Staudinger & Bluck state “the most frequent conception of a middle-aged man or woman was of someone who is 40 to 50 years old” (2001, p. 3).
Differences as to the conception of the period in which it occupies largely stems from the lack of cultural importance associated with the aforementioned period.Lachman and James (1997) specified other reasons that may account for the lack of importance attributed to the midlife period besides the one mentioned above. These are as follows: (1) Lack of eventfulness of the midlife period, (2) under representation of middle-aged individuals in research on the aspects involved in middle life, and (3) enormity of the undertaking necessary in order to fully account for the changes that function in experience, choice, as well as genetic make-up (cited in Lachman, 2001, p. 282).Despite of these, the importance of the midlife period may be determined by its role in serving as a distinctive period in which one may actively identify the roots of the aging process in adulthood thereby enabling the decrease as well as the prevention of biopsychosocial factors that are likely to occur in the later stages of life.
At a social level, the midlife period also serves as the period in which an individual harnesses to the fullest extent the generative aspects of his self thereby enabling and eliciting the transformation and growth within his personal as well as
social self.It is important to note that generativity here refers to both the individual’s capability to participate in activities that enable productivity and creativity (Erickson, 1963). According to Lachman, these activities are not delineated to parenting but may extend towards mentoring and teaching (2001, p. 290). The possibility of such, however, is largely dependent upon the acquisition of skills that will enable the individual to develop the potentialities necessary for midlife growth. Such growth, however, is hampered by the aforementioned tendency to associate aging with mental decline.
What follows is the discussion of role of self-efficacy in the development of cognitive functioning and self-appraisal during the period of midlife. Development of Cognitive Functioning during the Midlife Middle-aged adults generally experience good health. Within this period, physical changes are less likely to lead to changes in lifestyle (Lachman, 2001, xx). According to Lachman,’s (2000) discussion in “Development in Midlife”, in the aspect of cognitive functioning some aspects are maintained and improved during the aforementioned period. According to Lachman these involve “tacit knowledge” that are dependent upon experience (p.319).
Aspects that decline, on the other hand, involve those that necessitate the utilization of speed processing and working memory. The decline of such capacities, on the other hand, is compensated by the possession of higher order skills during this period. Despite of this, a stigma connected with the above-mentioned correlation between aging and cognitive decline continues to exist within the midlife period although Lachman notes, “research on objective change does not support widespread significant declines in memory until late in life” (p.319).
In the earlier part of the paper, the concept of self-efficacy in relation to the development of agency as
a necessity for enabling the experience of a meaningful life was discussed. It is important to note that meaningful as utilized in this paper refers to an individual’s capability to provide critical grounds in the assessment of both the emotive and objective aspects of existence. At this point, I would like to posit that the development of such is possible through the utilization of strategic methods in performing memory tasks.Studies have shown that the utilization of strategic components in the performance of cognitive tasks enables individuals to gain more control in performing particular tasks (Lachman, Andreolletio, & Pearman, 2006). Examples of such strategic components involve those that appeal to the reasoning faculties of the individual.
In the study conducted by Lachman, Andreolletio, & Pearman (2006), they have shown that training in memory and reasoning leads to the increase in the control of beliefs and hence increases in terms of an individual’s perception of his self-efficacy.Proof of the correlation and the effects of the utilization of strategic methods towards the increase of an individual’s self-efficacy and hence the individual’s cognitive functioning is evident if one considers that performance of the task is not affected, what is merely affected is cognitive aspect involved performing the task. A method in which such strategic methodologies may be learned by the individual is through the participation in tasks and activities that necessarily invokes anew the utilization of the individual’s rational capacities.Conclusion In summary, the paper discussed the role of self-efficacy in the development of an individual’s cognitive capacities in midlife.
I have argued that the research has shown that midlife stands as a fertile ground for the development of biopsychosocial factors that
may affect the individual in the later period of his life. One such methodology in which such a development may occur is through the utilization of strategic methods that enable the individual to harness his reasoning capacities as well as his memory retaining capacities.Such strategies may involve the participation into other areas, which have been originally unchartered by the individual. Furthermore, I have argued that participation in such activities not merely enables the development of one’s cognitive capacities but it also enables the development and hence growth of the social aspect of one’s life in terms of enabling one’s generative capabilities.
- Buckner, R.et. al. (2000). “Fuynctional Brain Imaging of Young, Nondemented, and Demented Older Adults. ” Cognitive Neuroscience 12: 24-34.
- Lachman, M. (2000). “Promoting a Sense of Control over Memory Aging.” Cognitive Rehabilitation in Old Age. Ed. R.Hill, L. Backman, & A. Neely. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. Lachman, M. (2001).
- Handbook of Midlife Development. Ed. M.Lachman. U. S. A.: John Wiley & Sons. Lachman, M. (2004). “Development in Midlife. ” Annual Review in Psychology 55: 305-31.
- Lachman, M. , Andreoletti, C. , & Pearman, Ann (2006). “Memory Control Beliefs: How are they related to Age, Strategy, Use, and Memory Improvement? ” Social Cognition 24. 3: 359-385. Light, L.(1991).
- “Memory and Aging: Four Hypotheses in Search of Data. ” Annual Review of Psychology 42: 333-76.Reuter-Lorenz, P. (2000).
- “New Visions of the Aging Mind and Brain. ” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 6. 9: 394-400. Smith, A. (2007).
- “Memory. ” Encyclopedia of Gerontology. Ed. J. Birren.Michigan: Univ. of Michigan. Staudinger, U. & S. Bluck, U. (2001).
- “A View on Midlife Development from Life-Span Theory. ” Handbook of Midlife
Development. Ed. M. Lachman.U. S. A. : John Wiley & Sons. Wilson, R., Benett, D. , & Swartzendruber, A. (1997).
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