Age and Ability Affect Practice Gains in Longitiudinal Studies of Cognitive Change

Patrick Rabbitt, M. Lunn, D. Wong, M. Cobain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During a 20-year longitudinal study, 5,842 participants aged 49 to 93 years significantly improved over two to four successive experiences of the Heim AH4-1 intelligence test (first published in 1970), even with between-test intervals of 4 years and longer. After we considered significant attrition by death and dropout and the effects of gender, socioeconomic advantage, and recruitment cohort, we found that participants with high intelligence test scores showed greater improvement than did those with lower intelligence test scores. Practice gains also reduced with age, even after we took into consideration the individual differences in intelligence test scores. This emphasizes the methodological point that neglect of individual differences in improvement during longitudinal studies underestimates age-related changes in younger and more able participants and the theoretical point that, like all experiences during everyday life, participation in longitudinal studies alters the ability of aging humans to cope with cognitive demands to different extents according to their baseline abilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-240
JournalJournal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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