Age-related decline occurs in several aspects of fluid, speed-dependent cognition, particularly those related to attention. Empirical research on visual attention has determined that attention-related effects occur across a range of information processing components, including the sensory registration of features, selection of information from working memory, controlling motor responses, and coordinating multiple perceptual and cognitive tasks. Thus, attention is a multifaceted construct that is relevant at virtually all stages of object identification. A fundamental theme of attentional functioning is the interaction between the bottom-up salience of visual features and top-down allocation of processing based on the observer’s goals. An underlying age-related slowing is prominent throughout visual processing stages, which in turn contributes to age-related decline in some aspects of attention, such as the inhibition of irrelevant information and the coordination of multiple tasks. However, some age-related preservation of attentional functioning is also evident, particularly the top-down allocation of attention. Neuroimaging research has identified networks of frontal and parietal brain regions relevant for top-down and bottom-up attentional processing. Disconnection among these networks contributes to an age-related decline in attention, but preservation and perhaps even increased patterns of functional brain activation and connectivity also contribute to preserved attentional functioning.
David J. Madden and Zachary A. Monge
Before health and risk messaging can have the best possible effect, there needs to be an understanding of what might influence health and associated risky behaviors. A wide range of elements needs to be considered, given the many possible influences on health habits and risky exposures. Since “ecology” is defined as the relationship between organisms and their environments, ecological models enable this consideration to be made. As a result ecological approaches have been widely used in health behavior, health planning, and health education. Ecological theory, with a communication focus, has also been developed, emerging specifically from the field of “information behavior.” Grounded in the work of Bronfenbrenner, on the experimental ecology of human development, the theory grew out of a study of older adults’ information and communication needs and uses, undertaken in the 1990s. The ecological model, as developed, enabled a wide range of personal and social influences on information seeking and communication to be explored with people aged 60 and older. Analysis of the impact of multilevel factors is facilitated by an ecological approach, increasing its value for the task of designing the content of health and risk messages. The “how” of designing health messaging is not addressed specifically by this approach. Following the study of older adults, the ecological model was broadened, modified, and applied to the study of the information and communication behavior of different community groups, involving a range of topics. The flexibility of the approach is a key strength. A study of information seeking, by women with breast cancer, indicated that several “ecological” elements, such as age, ethnicity, and stage of disease, played a part in the type of information sought and in preferences for how information was communicated. Health and risk avoidance implications emerged from a study of information seeking for online investment, providing another good example of the ways in which the model can be adapted. A range of ecological factors were shown to influence investing behavior, including level of risk taking. A study of people in the Fourth Age (the last stage of life) resulted in a further refined and extended model, as well as making a contribution to the already substantial body of accumulated gerontological knowledge.
Just as the factory assembly line replaced the farmer’s plow as the symbol of economic productivity at the beginning of the 19th century, so the computer and its software have replaced the assembly line at the beginning of the 21st century. In the United States, and in countries around the world, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education has moved front and center in national discussions of both productivity and social justice. This article will include (a) a review of how the world of work has changed, with a special focus on the history and impact of digital technology since ca. 1970; (b) lessons from research about K-12 education—elementary, middle school, and secondary education—and about higher education; and (c) research about how to increase access to education, and facilitate achievement, for those who traditionally have been under-represented in STEM education. Rigorous research has demonstrated how psychological and sociological factors (e.g., self-concepts, instructor expectations, and social support) often make the difference between student success and failure. To fully contextualize consideration of STEM education, many advocate broadening STEM to STEAM by including the arts, or the arts and humanities, in building educational programs. In today’s world a young person who wishes to secure a better life for himself or herself would be well advised to study STEM. Furthermore, a nation that wishes to advance economically, while reducing the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s, should strengthen its STEM education infrastructure.