Experience-based mitigation of age-related performance declines: evidence from air traffic control.


Previous research has found age-related deficits in a variety of cognitive processes. However, some studies have demonstrated age-related sparing on tasks where individuals have substantial experience, often attained over many decades. Here, the authors examined whether decades of experience in a fast-paced demanding profession, air traffic control (ATC), would enable older controllers to perform at high levels of proficiency. The authors also investigated whether older controllers would show diminished age-related decrements on domain-relevant cognitive abilities. Both young and old controllers and non-controllers performed a battery of cognitive and ATC tasks. Results indicate that although high levels of experience can reduce the magnitude of age-related decline on the component processes that underlie complex task performance, this sparing is limited in scope. More important, however, the authors observed experience-based sparing on simulated ATC tasks, with the sparing being most evident on the more complex air traffic control tasks. These results suggest that given substantial experience, older adults may be quite capable of performing at high levels of proficiency on fast-paced demanding real-world tasks. The implications of these findings for global skilled labor shortages are discussed.

DOI: 10.1037/a0014947

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@article{Nunes2009ExperiencebasedMO, title={Experience-based mitigation of age-related performance declines: evidence from air traffic control.}, author={Ashley Nunes and Arthur F. Kramer}, journal={Journal of experimental psychology. Applied}, year={2009}, volume={15 1}, pages={12-24} }