Verbal Creative Processing in Young and Older Adults

by Susan Leon

Institution: University of Florida
Department: Communication Sciences and Disorders
Year: 2010
Keywords: aging, associative, convergent, creativity, divergent, verbal; Communication Sciences and Disorders
Record ID: 1866284
Full text PDF: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041825


VERBAL CREATIVE PROCESSING IN YOUNG AND OLDER ADULTS The purpose of this study was to investigate creative verbal processing and assess how those processes were affected by healthy aging. It has been suggested that there are a number of processes involved in creative processing; these include divergent processing, convergent processing and associative processing. The processes are thought to rely on, or use similar resources to, different forms of cognitive processing. Divergent processing is thought to rely heavily on frontal functions such as disengagement, convergent processing on domain-specific knowledge and associative processing is thought to rely on knowledge of semantic relationships. Changes in brain structure and function occur with normal aging and while some elements of verbal creative processing may be negatively affected by these changes, other elements may remain unchanged or even improve in older adults. The participants used in this study consisted of thirty older adults and thirty younger adults. Testing consisted of a series of standard language and cognitive measures as well as a battery of tasks designed to assess the elements of verbal creative processing individually as well as in a creative production task. The creative production task required participants to make up short stories using sets of three semantically unrelated words. Results showed that older adults produced significantly more unique words that were not produced by any other participant in divergent processing tasks, and were significantly better on one of two convergent processing tasks. However, scores from independent ratings of stories showed that older adults performed significantly more poorly than younger adults at producing stories that were judged to be unique or original. We propose that the difference in findings is due to the ability to use previous knowledge or experience to produce unique responses on the divergent tasks, while the creative production task required the formation of novel semantic associations.