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Selective optimization with compensation is a developmental process that was first outlined by Baltes in 1980 to describe the relation between age-related changes within individuals and changes in behavioral and cognitive styles.[1][2] Baltes argues that as individuals advance through life they are increasingly faced by age-related deficits which place limits on their cognitive and behavioral resources.

To deal with these limits placed on domains, individuals will begin to invest resources into particular styles and behaviors that are deemed adaptive to the new constraints. This specialization in particular domains and styles will increase the ability in those particular faculties that are deemed more adaptive to growing age-related deficits.[1] Baltes notes, specialization in particular domains and styles takes time, effort, and motivation, requiring individuals to disregard other behavior and cognitive styles which are not deemed adaptive to new developmental limits.[1] The result of this process is an age-related increase in specialized styles and behaviors in order to enhance efficiency and improve performance, while a reduction in unfavourable styles. In response to the reduction in particular styles and behaviors, individuals will utilize specialized capacities as a compensatory mechanism to deal with gaps in capacities created by the specialization process.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Baltes, P. (1987). Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: On the dynamics between growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 23(5), 611-626.
  2. Baltes, P., & Baltes, M.M. (1980). Plasticity and variablility in psychological aging: Methodological and theoretical issues. In G. Guski (Ed.), Determining the effects of aging on the central nervous system (pp. 41-66). Berlin: Schering.

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