Visual Acuity does not Moderate Effect Sizes of Higher-Level Cognitive Tasks

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Thank you again to Lani Bennett and Dave Madden for their patience with this project that was several years in making!

Abstract

Background: Declining visual capacities in older adults have been posited as a driving force behind adult age differences in higher-order cognitive functions (e.g., the “common cause” hypothesis of Lindenberger & Baltes, 1994). McGowan, Patterson and Jordan (2013) also found that a surprisingly large number of published cognitive aging studies failed to include adequate measures of visual acuity. However, a recent meta-analysis of three studies (LaFleur & Salthouse, 2014) failed to find evidence that visual acuity moderated or mediated age differences in higher-level cognitive processes. In order to provide a more extensive test of whether visual acuity moderates age differences in higher-level cognitive processes, we conducted a more extensive meta-analysis of topic.
Methods: Using results from 456 studies, we calculated effect sizes for the main effect of age across four cognitive domains (attention, executive function, memory, and perception/language) separately for five levels of visual acuity criteria (no criteria, undisclosed criteria, self-reported acuity, 20/80-20/31, and 20/30 or better).
Results: As expected, age had a significant effect on each cognitive domain. However, these age effects did not further differ as a function of visual acuity criteria.
Conclusion: The current meta-analytic, cross-sectional results suggest that visual acuity is not significantly related to age group differences in higher-level cognitive performance—thereby replicating LaFleur and Salthouse (2014). Further efforts are needed to determine whether other measures of visual functioning (e.g. contrast sensitivity, luminance) affect age differences in cognitive functioning. 

Contributors

James R. Houston, Ilana J. Bennett, David, Philip A. Allen, David J. Madden

Is Everybody Doing It? Perceptions and Misperceptions of Sexual Behavior in the College Freshman Population

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A big thank you to both Alex Zelin and Mindy Erchull for allowing me the opportunity to work with your dataset as well as your patience in providing background of the subject matter!

Abstract

Descriptive and injunctive norms have been shown to influence people’s perceptions of what actions are considered appropriate, but they are frequently based on misperceptions. Men and women often hold varying perceptions with regards to sexual attitudes and behaviors. One hundred fifty-six heterosexual freshman women and 135 heterosexual freshman men were surveyed about their own sexually permissive attitudes and behaviors and their perceptions of their best friend’s and the average same-sex freshman’s attitudes and behaviors. We antici- pated and found that women and men perceived a three-tiered significant difference in sexually permissive attitudes, with participants reporting the least permissive attitudes while reporting the perception that the average freshman had the most permissive attitudes. Differing results were found for the tiered differences for sexual intercourse and giving and receiving oral sex. In general, women’s own number of sexual partners was related to their own sexually permissive attitudes and their perceptions of others’ attitudes and behaviors. In contrast, men’s own number of sexual partners was typically only influenced by their own sexually permissive attitudes and their perceptions of other men’s behaviors. Ultimately, women’s behaviors are influenced by perceptions of others’ actions and beliefs in addition to their own beliefs, whereas men’s behaviors are influenced only by their own beliefs and their perceptions of others’ behaviors. 

Contributors

Alexandra I. Zelin, Mindy J. Erchull, James R. Houston

Task-Specific and General Cognitive Effects in Chiari Malformation Type I

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A special thank you to Ann Rossmiller and Elizabeth Walker for their assistance with data collection!

Abstract

Objective: Our objective was to use episodic memory and executive function tests to determine whether or not Chiari Malformation Type I (CM) patients experience cognitive dysfunction.
Background: CM is a neurological syndrome in which the cerebellum descends into the cervical spine causing neural compression, severe headaches, neck pain, and number of other physical symptoms. While primarily a disorder of the cervico-medullary junction, both clinicians and researchers have suspected deficits in higher-level cognitive function.
Design and Methods: We tested 24 CM patients who had undergone decompression neurosurgery and 24 age- and education-matched controls on measures of immediate and delayed episodic memory, as well as three measures of executive function.
Results: The CM group showed performance decrements relative to the controls in response inhibition (Stroop interference), working memory computational speed (Ospan), and processing speed (automated digit symbol substitution task), but group differences in recall did not reach statistical significance. After statistical control for depression and anxiety scores, the group effects for working memory and processing speed were eliminated, but not for response inhibition. This response inhibition difference was not due to overall general slowing for the CM group, either, because when controls’ data were transformed using the linear function fit to all of the reaction time tasks, the interaction with group remained statistically significant. Furthermore, there was a multivariate group effect for all of the response time measures and immediate and delayed recall after statistical control of depression and anxiety scores.
Conclusion: These results suggest that CM patients with decompression surgery exhibit cognitive dysfunction compared to age- and education-matched controls. While some of these results may be related to anxiety and depression (likely proxies for chronic pain), response inhibition effects, in particular, as well as a general cognitive deficit persisted even after control for anxiety and decompression. 

Contributors

Philip A. Allen, James R. Houston, Joshua W. Pollock, Chistopher Buzzelli, Xuan Li, A. Katherine Harrington, Bryn A. Martin, Francis Loth, Mei-Ching Lien, Jahangir Maleki, Mark G. Luciano.