Investment trait, activity engagement, and age: independent effects on cognitive ability.
In cognitive aging research, the "engagement hypothesis" suggests that the participation in cognitively demanding activities helps maintain better cognitive performance in later life. In differential psychology, the "investment" theory proclaims that age differences in cognition are influenced by personality traits that determine when, where, and how people invest their ability. Although both models follow similar theoretical rationales, they differ in their emphasis of behavior (i.e., activity engagement) versus predisposition (i.e., investment trait). The current study compared a cognitive activity engagement scale (i.e., frequency of participation) with an investment trait scale (i.e., need for cognition) and tested their relationship with age differences in cognition in 200 British adults. Age was negatively associated with fluid and positively with crystallized ability but had no relationship with need for cognition and activity engagement. Need for cognition was positively related to activity engagement and cognitive performance; activity engagement, however, was not associated with cognitive ability. Thus, age differences in cognitive ability were largely independent of engagement and investment.