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16 - Co-Constructing Human Engineering Technologies in Old Age: Lifespan Psychology as a Conceptual Foundation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 July 2009

Ulman Lindenberger
Director, Center for Lifespan Psychology Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
Martin Lövdén
International Research Fellow, Center for Lifespan Psychology Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
Paul B. Baltes
Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin
Patricia A. Reuter-Lorenz
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Frank Rösler
Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany
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Human engineering technologies highlight the bioculturally co-constructed nature of human ontogeny. Based on concepts from lifespan psychology, we propose three criteria for evaluating human engineering technologies in old age: marginal gain for the individual, person specificity and adaptability, and conjoint consideration of distal and proximal frames of evaluation. Informed by research on expert memory performance and negative adult age differences in sensory, motor, and cognitive functioning, we propose strategies for incorporating these criteria into the design of human engineering technologies. We expect that intelligent human engineering technologies will alter the aging of future generations by reducing cognitive resource demands through personalized external cuing structures.


Recent years have witnessed increasing efforts at improving and expanding human engineering technologies for diverse segments of the adult and elderly population (Charness & Schaie, 2003; Kautz, Etzioni, Fox, & Weld, 2004; LoPresti, Mihailidis, & Kirsch, 2004). In this chapter, we discuss the potential of human engineering technologies to counteract negative adult age changes in sensory/sensorimotor and cognitive domains. We devote special attention to intelligent human engineering technology (IHET), that is, to assistive devices and environments apt to learn from, control, supervise, and regulate behavior (Kautz et al., 2004; Patterson, Liao, Fox, & Kautz, 2003).

Human behavior enmeshed in assistive technology is not fundamentally different from any other form of human behavior. At the same time, the unprecedented capacity of IHET to adapt to, predict, supervise, assist, and eventually control human behavior sets it apart from less adaptive assistive devices such as canes or reading glasses.

Lifespan Development and the Brain
The Perspective of Biocultural Co-Constructivism
, pp. 350 - 376
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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