Professor William Hoyer of Syracuse University gave a lecture entitled "Aging, Skill Learning and Cognitive Expertise" on Oct 29 in the Science Auditorium. Hoyer talked about his research in the field of cognitive aging, particularly about the differences in skill learning between older and younger subjects.
One experiment involved teaching subjects a mathematical algorithm and seeing how their performance with it improved over time. In the research, Hoyer found that older adults often took a longer time to switch from going through the entire computation in their heads to using their previous knowledge of the task to speed it up. Hoyer also discussed his research into cognitive expertise, or how people can continue to excel at tasks they perform regularly even as they grown older and their response times slow down. The research found that this expertise is often based on familiarity with the situation, and when the task is changed slightly, the effect of age will be more apparent. One example was how experienced typists showed no loss of speed as they grew older, until the researchers restricted the number of letters they were able to see ahead. When the typists could no longer look ahead at what they were going to be typing, their decreased response time led to a slower overall typing speed.
The event was the first in the John Rybash Memorial Lecture Series, established in honor of John Rybash, Hamilton College Professor of Psychology from 1991-1999 by his family, friends, colleagues and former students. Bill Hoyer had done work with Rybash, who was also an expert in cognitive aging. Hamilton Professor of Psychology Doug Weldon opened the event by speaking about having Rybash as a colleague, and Professor Kara Bopp '96 talked about having him as a teacher and mentor.