Here's What You Do Best At Your Age

Photographed by Winnie Au.
We usually just assume that aging means our brains are deteriorating, but some processes may actually be at their best when we get older. And, new research is pinpointing when and where those cognitive peaks happen.

The study, soon to be published in Psychological Science, compiled results from 48,537 online questionnaires. In a series of separate experiments, the researchers also looked at previously-published results of memory and IQ tests taken by people between the ages of 16 and 89. 

Their results showed that while some of our abilities peak in early adulthood and decline from there, others aren't at their best until our 40s. For instance, as previous research has suggested, we tend to excel at tests of "fluid" intelligence — recalling information and thinking quickly — in our late teens and 20s. However, more "crystallized" forms of intelligence, such as vocabulary, peak later on — even up to our early 70s.

This research also found more detailed results than previous studies: While we get our best scores on visual short-term memory tasks in our 30s, being able to accurately perceive other people's emotions was a skill perfected in our 40s and 50s.

"Not only is there no age at which humans are performing at peak at all cognitive tasks," the study authors write, "there may not be an age at which humans are at peak on most cognitive tasks." This doesn't mean that age-related cognitive decline doesn't happen; instead, it suggests that decline is happening in a more complex way than we currently understand. So, you've got plenty to look forward to — whether or not you're keeping up with those crosswords.

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