Aging and Performance

airtrafficcontrollersAs baby boomers reluctantly begin to admit that the indignities of aging – hearing loss, flabby skin, hard-to-lose weight, forgetfulness – apply to them, good news. A study of air traffic controllers in the March issue of The Journal of Experimental Psychology provides evidence that experience triumphs over the normal changes of aging. At least for air traffic controllers.

Experienced air traffic controllers work smarter, not harder. On most lab tests of cognitive processes, researchers Ashley Nunes, PhD and Arthur F. Kramer, PhD observed predictable age-related declines. But older controllers’ experience compensated to a significant degree for age-related declines, especially in solving the most complex simulated air traffic problems. Older controllers also issued fewer commands than younger controllers, with similar results. They acted “in a more measured fashion to achieve performance that rivals that of their younger counterparts, who exhibited better cognitive ability.”

Ability, not age. Measured responses, not sheer speed. Ah, hope for the boomers! At least those with experience, who can maintain control…
Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

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