Age dependent statistical learning trajectories reveal differences in information weighting

TitleAge dependent statistical learning trajectories reveal differences in information weighting
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsHerff SA, Zhen S, Yu R, Agres KR
JournalPsychology and Aging
KeywordsCognitive Assessment, Continuous Paradigm, Elderly, Statistical Learning

Statistical learning (SL) is the ability to generate predictions based on probabilistic dependencies in the environment, an ability that is present throughout life. However, SL in older adults has received far less attention. Here, we explore statistical learning in healthy adults (40 younger, and 40 older). The novel paradigm tracks learning trajectories and shows age-related differences in overall performance, yet similarities in learning rates. Bayesian models reveal further differences between younger and older adults in dealing with uncertainty in this probabilistic SL task. We test computational models of three different learning strategies: (1) Win-Stay, Lose-Shift, (2) Delta Rule Learning, (3) Information Weights to explore whether they capture age-related differences in performance and learning in the present task. A likely candidate mechanism emerges in the form of age-dependent differences in information weights, in which young adults more readily change their behaviour, but also show disproportionally strong reactions towards erroneous predictions. Taken together, the present pattern of results points towards age-related differences in information processing, with lower but more balanced information weights in older adults.
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