Psychology and aging
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Shepard, Hovland, and Jenkins (1961) examined the categorization abilities of younger adults using tasks involving single-dimensional rule learning, disjunctive rule learning, and family resemblance learning. The current study examined category learning in older adults using this well-known category set. Older adults, like younger adults, found category tasks with a single relevant dimension the easiest to learn. In contrast to younger adults, older adults found complex disjunctive rule-based categories harder to learn than family resemblance based categories. Disjunctive rule-based category learning appeared to be the most difficult for older adults to learn because this category set placed the heaviest demands on working memory, which is known to be a cognitive function that declines with normal aging. The authors discuss why complex rule-based category learning is considered more difficult for older adults to learn relative to younger adults, drawing parallels to developmental research.