chapter  5
58 Pages

What Is Intellectual Efficacy Over the Life Course?: Using Adults' Conceptions to Address the Question

The prominence in cognitive aging research given to measured cognitive and intellectual skills has diverted attention away from questions regarding whether older adults believe that the young hold an intellectual advantage over the old. Only recently has research addressed older adults' beliefs and attitudes about their cognitive and intellectual abilities and what happens to these abilities throughout their life span (e.g., Cornelius & Caspi, 1986; Lachman, 1986a). These beliefs and attitudes about intellectual aging are important as they may impact current and future intellectual performances. The research on perceived intellectual efficacy borrows many ideas of what defines intellectual efficacy from the work on measured intellectual efficacy. How relevant the wealth of data from the cognitive aging literature is

in addressing older adults' beliefs about their cognitive and intellectual efficacy, however, is not clear. Primarily, it is not obvious that the kind of intellectual abilities that cognitive aging researchers have investigated are the abilities that older adults would agree constitute intelligence. I argue in this chapter that work on measured and perceived intellectual efficacy during adulthood will benefit from an examination of what adults mean by intellectual efficacy.