Age, ability, and the role of prior knowledge on the acquisition of new domain knowledge: promising results in a real-world learning environment

Psychol Aging. 2005 Jun;20(2):341-355. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.20.2.341.


Prior knowledge, fluid intelligence (Gf), and crystallized intelligence (Gc) were investigated as predictors of learning new information about cardiovascular disease and xerography with a sample of 199 adults (19 to 68 years). The learning environment included a laboratory multimedia presentation (high-constraint-maximal effort), and a self-directed at-home study component (low-constraint-typical performance). Results indicated that prior knowledge and ability were important predictors of knowledge acquisition for learning. Gc was directly related to learning from the video for both domains. Because the trajectory of Gc stays relatively stable throughout the life span, these findings provide a more optimistic perspective on the relationship between aging and learning than that offered by theories that focus on the role of fluid abilities in learning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Knowledge*
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Task Performance and Analysis