Cognitive predictors and age-based adverse impact among business executives

Klein, R. M., Dilchert, S. Ones, D. S., & Dages, K. D.
Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 1497-1510.

Age differences on measures of general mental ability and specific cognitive abilities were examined in 2 samples of job applicants to executive positions as well as a mix of executive/nonexecutive positions to determine which predictors might lead to age-based adverse impact in making selection and advancement decisions. Generalizability of the pattern of findings was also investigated in 2 samples from the general adult population. Age was negatively related to general mental ability, with older executives scoring lower than younger executives. For specific ability components, the direction and magnitude of age differences depended on the specific ability in question. Older executives scored higher on verbal ability, a measure most often associated with crystallized intelligence. This finding generalized across samples examined in this study. Also, consistent with findings that fluid abilities decline with age, older executives scored somewhat lower on figural reasoning than younger executives, and much lower on a letter series test of inductive reasoning. Other measures of inductive reasoning, such as Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices, also showed similar age group mean differences across settings. Implications for employee selection and adverse impact on older job candidates are discussed.