Our worlds are filled with sequential relationships. Perceiving and understanding these contingencies allows us to predict and respond appropriately to future events. While a number of studies have demonstrated that the learning of sequential relationships changes with age, it is less clear how people use knowledge of sequential relationships to make predictions at different ages. Creating a new experimental paradigm, the Triplets Prediction Task, my colleagues and I discovered adult age-related deficits in the learning of sequential predictive relationships (Seaman, Howard & Howard, 2014a). We later clarified that this was primarily due to older adults relying on simple, but disadvantageous, strategies (Seaman, Howard & Howard, 2015). This line of research confirmed an age-related prediction learning deficit and contributed to a growing literature suggesting older adults prefer simple cognitive strategies.
Individual who use advantageous strategies early in the Triplets Prediction Task develop more explicit knowledge of the task structure and ultimately have higher overall performance. Those who use an advantageous strategy early in training end up performing better on the task overall, and this relationship explains part of the relationship between age and performance. However, early strategy use does not appear to explain the relationship between age and explicit knowledge (Seaman, Howard, & Howard, 2014b).