Posted on 02/22/2022 19:58
The brain remains sharp into middle age, contrary to popular assumptions that the speed of mental processing slows after your twenties and thirties. That’s what research published in the journal Nature Human Behavior suggests.
The study of 1.2 million people, ages 10 to 80, found that mental speed remained relatively stable between ages 30 and 60 — but caution in decision-making tends to increase with age.
Researchers at the University of Heidelberg in Germany used an online task to estimate the time it takes people to make a decision.
They showed participants a series of photos online and asked them to categorize them into two categories – good or bad – by pressing different buttons to do so.
They suggest that the task involves distinct processes, including mental speed (roughly defined as the rate at which we process information to make a decision), prudence of decision-making (which considers the time it takes to consider information before making a decision), and then the time it takes to stress actually on the button.
Using mathematical models, the researchers were able to estimate the speed at which participants completed each part of the process.
They found that while the average time to complete the task as a whole worsened after the age of 20, the mental speed of information processing did not begin to slow down until the age of 60.
The study found that:
– people under the age of 18 were less cautious and more willing to give up accuracy in speed;
Caution increased in decisions between 18 and 65 years old;
People also took longer to press the respective button as they got older.
Scientists acknowledge that there are likely to be many different processes involved in decision-making and say that it is possible that other factors, such as pre-formed opinions, also influence the speed of decision-making.
The study concluded, “Our findings challenge the common perception of age-related slowing of mental speed for many typical human lives and working occupations.”
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