Do Our Skills Go Downhill After Our 20s? Scientists Offer Fascinating Insights About When We Peak

People who think they are past their prime after they have crossed their 20s take heart. Scientists have discovered a very fascinating insight into the human body.

There are a lot of skills that we master in our 20s, and by the time we hit our 30s many feel our sporting, drinking, memorizing and frolicking days are over. While it’s generally assumed that our ability to think on our feet and quickly recall information declines as we get older too, a new research has positively shown that not all aspects of intelligence age in the same way.

Psychologists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Massachusetts General Hospital in America, realized that while cognitive skills peak during our high school and college days, others continue to improve even after we hit 40. Moreover, some mental skills will continue to stay sharp even when we hit retirement age.

To investigate how intelligence varies or changes with age, the psychologists tested 48,537 people between the ages of 10 and 89 who had visited the sites and These websites conduct language, IQ, and memory tests that measure the participants’ emotion-recognition, working memory, number skills, and vocabulary.

Having looked at the statistics, the researchers found that, depending on your definition of “intelligence,” the different types of mental skills peak at very different times throughout your life. Understandably, young participants mostly did the best on the number-to-symbol coding tasks, with a peak age of around 19 to 20-years-old. However, “working memory” peaked between the mid-20s and mid-30s, before starting to slowly decline.

Twenty-somethings were found to be exceptionally good at recognizing someone’s emotions from simply looking at a photo of their eyes. Interestingly, this ability simply kept on improving all the way up until the age of 48. Moreover, the ability to decipher someone’s emotional state of mind deteriorated very marginally. That partially explains why old people are generally so good at knowing what’s on our minds.

As for our vocabulary, if learned well in the formative years, the skill just kept getting better with age. The ability of being articulate generally peaked in the 60s or 70s, but astonishingly, the skill doesn’t seem to erode as we age further.

The study clearly shows that different parts of our intelligence peak at different times throughout our lives, shared the authors, Joshua K. Hartshorne and Laura T. Germine.

“At any given age, you’re getting better at some things, you’re getting worse at some other things, and you’re at a plateau at some other things.

“It paints a different picture of the way we change over the lifespan than psychology and neuroscience have traditionally painted”

The brain has always baffled scientists, and it appears age is a relative term, and time is a flexible concept as far as our mental skills are concerned.

[Image Credit | Taringa]