Does the direction and magnitude of cognitive change depend on initial level of ability?

Intelligence. 2012 Jul;40(4):352-361. doi: 10.1016/j.intell.2012.02.006. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


Longitudinal change in five cognitive abilities was investigated to determine if the direction or magnitude of change was related to the individual's ability level. Adults between 18 and 97 years of age performed three versions of 16 cognitive tests on two occasions separated by an average of 2.7 years. In order to control for influences associated with regression toward the mean, level of ability was determined from scores on the first version of the cognitive tests on the first occasion, and across-occasion change was examined on the second and third versions. Change in every cognitive ability was significantly more negative with increased age. However, there was little indication of ability-dependent change in any of the five cognitive abilities, either in differences between composite scores, or in estimates of latent change. Although there are reasons to expect cognitive change to be less negative at either high or low levels of ability, these data suggest that neither the direction nor magnitude of change is related to initial ability when influences of regression toward the mean are controlled.