Aging, culture, and cognition

Denise C. Park, Richard Nisbett, Trey Hedden

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


There is evidence that East Asians are biased to process information in a holistic, contextual fashion, whereas Western Europeans process information in an analytic, feature-based style. We argue that these cultural differences in information-processing styles are so pervasive that they affect cognitive function at the most basic levels, including the mechanics of cognition. However, as individuals age, it is not always the case that culture effects on cognitive processes magnify, despite many additional years of exposure to the culture. Neurobiological decline in cognitive function that occurs with age is a cognitive universal and can limit the strategies used in late adulthood, resulting in more similarity in cognitive function in late adulthood across cultures than is observed in young adulthood. We present a theoretical framework for understanding the impact of aging on cognitive function cross-culturally. The importance of developing culture-invariant measures of processing resources is emphasized and methodological issues associated with the cross-cultural study of aging are addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)P75-P84
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


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