Quantity and structure of word knowledge across adulthood

Intelligence. 2014 Sep;46:122-130. doi: 10.1016/j.intell.2014.05.009.


Cross-sectional and longitudinal data from moderately large samples of healthy adults confirmed prior findings of age-related declines in measures of the quantity of word knowledge beginning around age 65. Additional analyses were carried out to investigate the interrelations of different types of vocabulary knowledge at various periods in adulthood. Although the organizational structures were similar in adults of different ages, scores on tests with different formats had weaker relations to a higher-order vocabulary construct beginning when adults were in their 60's. The within-person dispersion among different vocabulary test scores was also greater after about 65 years of age. The discovery of quantitative decreases in amount of knowledge occurring at about the same age as qualitative shifts in the structure of knowledge raises the possibility that the two types of changes may be causally linked.

Keywords: aging; construct validity; knowledge; semantic memory.