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Older People Perform more Consistently than Younger People

Update Date: Aug 06, 2013 11:41 AM EDT
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Current stereotypes about older people often reiterate the fact that when people age, their cognitive abilities start to deteriorate. Even though this belief is true to a certain extent since older people are not as sharp as they used to be, a new study suggests that older people can still outperform younger people on certain tasks. In this new study, researchers wanted to test the consistency of the work produced by young and old employees. The researchers reported that older people tend to be more consistent and thus, could provide better work for particular companies.

In this study, the researchers, Florian Schmiedek, Martin Lövdén and Ulman Lindenberger looked at data from the COGITO Study, which was conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. The researchers tested over 200 participants. This group of participants was composed of two age groups: the younger one between 20 and 31-years-old and the older one between 65 and 80-years-old. The participants were given 12 tasks to complete that measured testing perceptual speed and both episodic and working memory. The tasks were performed repeatedly over 100 days.

The researchers discovered that for nine cognitive tasks, the older group performed with less variability from day to day in comparison to the younger group. This indicated that older people were more consistent with their performances and thus, in certain setting, could provide better work.

"Further analyses indicate that the the older adults' higher consistency is due to learned strategies to solve the task, a constantly high motivation level, as well as a balanced daily routine and stable mood," Schmiedek stated according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers explained that older employees provide companies with a stable and efficient work source. Older employees, due to their adherence to routine, are less likely to have performance fluctuations from day to day. The researchers believe that their study's findings can help companies determine which employees would provide the most benefits.

Axel Börsch-Supan, another researcher studying productivity of the labor force in aging societies at the Max Planck Institute, added, "One of our studies in the car production industry has shown that serious errors that are expensive to resolve are much less likely to be committed by older staff members than by their younger colleagues. Likewise, in other branches of industry that we have studied, one does not observe higher productivity among the younger relative to the older workers. On balance, older employees' productivity and reliability is higher than that of their younger colleagues."

Despite this, the stereotype that younger employees are better because they would be sharper and easier to teach still thrives. The findings from this study could potentially change that stereotype. The study was published in Psychological Science

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