Age Differences in Reliance on Executive Control in Fluid Reasoning

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While executive control (processes that facilitate the adaptation to new and/or complex situations) show an age-related decline, behavioral studies have observed stronger correlations between control and certain cognitive functions in older compared to young adults, which are often interpreted as an increase in the reliance on controlled processes with aging. Fifty-seven young adults (Mage=27.4 year, SD = 4.1) and 79 older adults (Mage=69.9 year, SD = 6.8) were administered several Fluid Reasoning, Control, and Representation measures. For the second step of the study, a group of 41 older adults (Mage=68.3 year, SD = 6.2) was selected as matching the young ones in terms of control measures. Correlations between fluid reasoning and control were stronger in older than in young adults. A General Linear Model analysis revealed a significant interaction between age and control variables. These results confirm the greater reliance on executive control in fluid reasoning performance in older adults, which may correspond to an active mechanism to cope with age-related difficulties.

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