Cognadev

The impact of age, education and operational work on cognitive functioning

By Cognadev on August 28, 2018

Written by Paul Barrett and Maretha Prinsloo

In this investigation, we look at how the scores on the 14 Information processing competencies (IPCs) which are graphically represented in the CPP reports vary within an Administrative/Clerical employment group as a function of:

  • age at CPP completion, and
  • two quite different attained educational levels (10-12 years of schooling, and a single degree, or multiple degrees, including postgraduate degrees).

The dataset we used was a sample of the most recently acquired 60,572 cases of CPP data. Two graphs were created, displaying LOWESS smoothed trend lines for all 14 IPCs, one for each educational group.

 

For those with only a secondary school qualification (10–12 years schooling):   

  • At entry level (ages around 20) into operational roles, this group seems highly diverse / heterogeneous in terms of cognitive skills. Their reasons for employment in administrative and clerical roles may thus be situational (many with good cognitive potential may enter the work environment due to personal circumstances). The IPC scores of this group range between 48 and 67.  This covers SST Diagnostic Accumulation and Tactical Strategy  requirements and may even in individual cases touch on the processing requirements of the SST Parallel Processing environment.
  • At age 20, the highest scores for this diverse group with 10–12 year schooling, were surprisingly obtained on the IPCs of: “Exploration”, “Quick Insight learning”, “Judgement” and “Logical reasoning”. As indicated in previous studies, most of these cognitive skills are of a strategic nature.
  • During the ages of approximately 30–50, IPC scores which reflect suitability for SST Diagnostic Accumulation environments are shown – thereby indicating an appropriate level of processing which is well suited to the requirements of the operational work.
  • Those with a 10–12 year schooling who find themselves in administrative and clerical roles do, over time, show improved or stable “Memory use”, “Memory strategies”, “Gradual Improvement learning” and “Judgement” scores in age groups over 50. This particular set of processing skills are required by Diagnostic Accumulation environments which implies continuous practice at work.
  • Improved “Judgement” scores may be explained in terms of the familiarity and stability of operational environments, where decisions are largely based on knowledge and experience. Those in operational roles may therefore over time increasingly rely on their knowledge and experience-based intuition to inform their judgement and decisions.
  • There seems to be a decline in the “Verbal conceptualisation”, “Pragmatic/Exploration”, “Logical reasoning”, “Analytical”, “Quick insight learning” and “Integration” scores in the over 50’s group with 10-12 years of schooling in administrative and clerical roles. It can possibly be understood in terms of the lower level requirements of operational environments with regards to analytical, logical, integrative and learning functions. A lack of practice and application of these processing skills may thus contribute to their decline.
  • It seems that candidates with 10–12 year schooling, who remain in operational roles for decades, show a significant decline in cognitive agility and logical-analytical as well as integrative functioning – probably due to the lack of cognitive challenge posed by static and tangible operational environments.

 

The rapid age-related decline in the average IPCs of the 10 – 12 year schooling group in operational roles, thus probably indicate that those with higher level processing skills tend to:

  • improve their educational qualifications with age and thus no longer form part of the 10 – 12 year schooling category
  • tend to exit operational roles through promotion to supervisory and managerial roles.

It may also indicate that operation roles fail to further contribute to the development of cognitive processing skills over time.

For those with a tertiary educational qualification (degree or multiple degrees):

  • At entry level (ages around 20) into operational roles within the world of work, this group of graduates show less diverse cognitive skills than those with a 10–12 year schooling qualification.
  • Overall, the cognitive skill levels of this group largely reflect a SST Diagnostic Accumulation level to Tactical Strategy level.
  • Other than the 10-12 year schooling group, the graduates show a significantly improvement in terms of cognitive processing skills during their twenties. This may be related to the switch from educational to work demands and the cognitive challenge of applying educationally acquired knowledge. There seems to be a peak in cognitive effectiveness around their late twenties.
  • Other than the 10-12 year schooling group, the graduates at 20 also achieved the highest average processing scores on “Gradual improvement learning”, “Pragmatic”, “Logical reasoning” and “Rule orientation”. These skills are all reflective of a Logical-analytical, yet somewhat operational orientation which is required for educational performance. It differs from the somewhat strategic orientation of the diverse 10-12 year schooling group.
  • This group (at 20) achieved the lowest scores on the IPCs of “Judgement” and “Integration” – both of which from a qualitative perspective are more strategic in nature than most of the other processing scores.
  • An interesting finding is that the graduate group in administrative and clerical roles achieved an average IPC score of 48 on “Exploration”, whereas the 10-12 year schooling group achieved a score of 68. Could it be that tertiary education actually reduces the tendency to explore in young people?
  • During the ages of approximately 30 – 55, this group of graduates in operational roles, show IPC scores which reflect suitability for SST Diagnostic Accumulation environments, indicating an appropriate level of processing.
  • Graduates in administrative and clerical roles do, however, over time, show improved or stable IPC scores on “Verbal conceptualisation”. In other words, as opposed to those with a 10-12 year schooling, the graduates show a tendency to rely on creative conceptualisation and verbalisation.  The opposite seems to characterise non-graduates who showed a decline over time in terms of “Verbal conceptualisation”.
  • For the graduate group there seems to be a steady decline in terms of “Quick Insight Learning”, “Judgement”, “Categorisation” and “Complexity” scores over time. The nature of familiar and structured operational environments seldom pose these processing challenges which thus results in a lack of practice of those skills.
  • It seems that graduates who remain in operational roles for decades, show a significant decline in cognitive agility – probably due to the lack of cognitive challenge posed by static and tangible operational environments.

The age-related decline in the average IPCs of the graduates in operational roles after the age of 30, probably indicate that:

  • graduates with a SST Diagnostic Accumulation cognitive orientation tend to enter the operational work environment
  • graduates who enter operational roles seem significantly less prone to explore and investigate new information than those with secondary school level qualifications

Within the first 10 years there is thus a significant improvement of the processing skills of this group, followed by a gradual decline.

  • this decline may be due to: the inadequate cognitive challenges posed by administrative and clerical work
  • those with higher levels of cognitive capability may exit operational roles through promotion to supervisory and managerial roles

It seems that graduates with SST Diagnostic Accumulation level cognitive functioning, who enter into Diagnostic Accumulation roles and remain there, may not develop their thinking skills sufficiently in the long term.

Cognadev Technical Report #12 provides the detailed sample information and descriptive statistics from which this blog article has been compiled.

Call us on +27 11 884 0878

css.php