This is an application to test the efficacy of a new approach to cognitive training that is focused on higher level processes such as reasoning and inference. The proposal concerns content of interest to mature adults. The product that will be developed out of the research efforts of Phases I and eventually II will be a cognitive training program for adults ages 55 and older (SMART - Sternberg Mediated Adult Reasoning Training). As people live longer, an important concern is to maintain their cognitive functioning, which increases their independence and reduces their health-care costs. Previous studies have found that cognitive abilities can be significantly increased through training programs. Most existing training programs use fairly abstract items that are somewhat removed from content of everyday life. Our training program, SMART, is based on the real-life interests of mature adults and covers topics such as medical conditions and their treatments, financial planning, nutrition, travel, etc. It is concrete and real- world relevant in what it teaches. Furthermore, it develops the higher order skills important for adaptive success in mature people. SMART is based on Sternberg's theory of successful intelligence and addresses higher order cognitive skills: """"""""metacomponents,"""""""" such as defining problems and formulating strategies to solve the problems;""""""""knowledge-acquisition components,"""""""" such as selective encoding-deciding what new information is relevant for solving a problem;and """"""""performance components, such as inference-ascertaining the relation between items of information. The tasks will involve analytical, creative, and practical thinking. The design of the study is a controlled experimental one involving experimental (SMART treatment) and control (alternative treatment stressing perceptual and episodic-memory cognitive processes) groups. The goal of Phase I is to create the program and pilot test it. Tests will be for efficacy in improving cognitive skills, as well as for the extent to which the program achieves customer acceptability and motivates participants. We will empirically compare the program's efficacy for males vs. females and younger mature adults (age 55 to 70) vs. older mature adults (age 71 to 85). Future phases will refine and further test the program and prepare it for commercial use.
The cognitive skills developed by SMART (Sternberg Mediated Adult Reasoning Training) are important not just for personal well-being, but for health-related outcomes. For example, higher cognitive skills are associated with better recognition of potential health problems at an earlier stage, better compliance with medical regimens, greater ability fully to cope with the direct and indirect consequences of illnesses, and subsequently increased ability of staying independent in old age. The program is designed to appeal to mature adults by comprising content in areas such as travel, history, or health, that are interesting and challenging to older adults in order to enhance motivation to participate at a regular basis, and will be accessible to anyone interested through delivery over the Internet in a format that is fun, educational, and promoting of cognitive maintenance and even growth.