Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Hayne W. Reese.


The purposes of this study were to: (a) determine whether older adults would use logic-based strategies on a concept identification task when the stereotyped content of the task was changed to "experience free"; (b) determine whether older adults would use logic-based strategies when the stereotyped content was left intact after completing an "experience free" version of the concept identification task, and (c) explore relations of potential causal mechanisms of strategy use for older adults such as problem interpretation or past experience. Thirty-two older adults (M = 70.0 years) and 32 younger adults (M = 21.2) solved two versions of the Pictures task (adapted from the Accountant problem, Laipple 1991). Multiway frequency analyses and follow-up nonparametric tests revealed younger adults used significantly more logic-based strategies than older adults for the version with stereotype content (i.e., the goal the task was to find the surgeon). No significant age differences were revealed when the content was "experience free" (i.e., find the person born in March). There were also no significant age differences on the version with stereotyped content when the participants first completed the "experience-free" version. Contrary to results of other studies, interpretation of the problem was not correlated with strategy use. Participants' references to stereotypes were correlated with type of strategies used but this relation was greater for younger adults than older adults. Older adults are posited to use experience-based strategies when the task contents allow for such a strategy and use this strategy more automatically, whereas, younger adults are posited to use logic-based strategies more often regardless of task content. Construct validity of concept identification tasks and other cognitive tests may be suspect if the task content is not examined for possible stereotypes.