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Human behavioral complexity peaks at age 25


Gauvrit, Nicolas; Zenil, Hector; Soler-Toscano, Fernando; Delahaye, Jean-Paul; Brugger, Peter (2017). Human behavioral complexity peaks at age 25. PLoS Computational Biology, 13(4):e1005408.

Abstract

Random Item Generation tasks (RIG) are commonly used to assess high cognitive abilities such as inhibition or sustained attention. They also draw upon our approximate sense of complexity. A detrimental effect of aging on pseudo-random productions has been demonstrated for some tasks, but little is as yet known about the developmental curve of cognitive complexity over the lifespan. We investigate the complexity trajectory across the lifespan of human responses to five common RIG tasks, using a large sample (n = 3429). Our main finding is that the developmental curve of the estimated algorithmic complexity of responses is similar to what may be expected of a measure of higher cognitive abilities, with a performance peak around 25 and a decline starting around 60, suggesting that RIG tasks yield good estimates of such cognitive abilities. Our study illustrates that very short strings of, i.e., 10 items, are sufficient to have their complexity reliably estimated and to allow the documentation of an age-dependent decline in the approximate sense of complexity.

Abstract

Random Item Generation tasks (RIG) are commonly used to assess high cognitive abilities such as inhibition or sustained attention. They also draw upon our approximate sense of complexity. A detrimental effect of aging on pseudo-random productions has been demonstrated for some tasks, but little is as yet known about the developmental curve of cognitive complexity over the lifespan. We investigate the complexity trajectory across the lifespan of human responses to five common RIG tasks, using a large sample (n = 3429). Our main finding is that the developmental curve of the estimated algorithmic complexity of responses is similar to what may be expected of a measure of higher cognitive abilities, with a performance peak around 25 and a decline starting around 60, suggesting that RIG tasks yield good estimates of such cognitive abilities. Our study illustrates that very short strings of, i.e., 10 items, are sufficient to have their complexity reliably estimated and to allow the documentation of an age-dependent decline in the approximate sense of complexity.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neurology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:April 2017
Deposited On:08 Feb 2018 14:37
Last Modified:01 Mar 2018 01:50
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1553-734X
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005408
PubMed ID:28406953

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