Cognitive performance and the role of control beliefs in midlife

L. M.S. Miller, M. E. Lachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Midlife has been touted as being a time of peak performance in many different areas of functioning. In the present study, we investigated whether this was true for cognitive functioning on tasks assessing speed, reasoning, short-term memory, and vocabulary. We also explored the extent to which levels of cognitive functioning could be attributed to individual differences in general control beliefs. Middle-aged adults showed little or no cognitive declines on speed, reasoning, and short-term memory measures relative to the young and outperformed the young on vocabulary. Relative to the elderly, middle-aged adults scored higher on all tasks except vocabulary, for which there were no differences. Adults in midlife, on the other hand, had lower scores on measures of general control beliefs compared to younger adults. Thus, although midlife is a time of high cognitive functioning, it is also a time of lower beliefs about control. To investigate the relationship between control beliefs and cognitive performance, we used structural equation modeling. The models showed that for adults in midlife, control beliefs were predictive of performance but only for the reasoning task after background variables were considered. Specifically, high levels of control beliefs were associated with better cognitive performance. More work is needed to identify mediational processes linking control beliefs and cognitive performance for various age groups and to determine whether some cognitive processes are more controllable than others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-85
Number of pages17
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 4 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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