The Role of Task Preparation and Task Inhibition in Age-Related Task-Switching Deficits

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Abstract

The aim of our study was to examine the role of task preparation and task inhibition in age-related task-switching deficits. In 2 experiments, we used a cuing paradigm with 3 tasks and manipulated the cue-stimulus interval (CSI). Additionally, switching among 3 tasks enabled us to examine n-2 task repetition costs, which reflect persisting inhibition of abandoned tasks. In Experiment 1, we found larger mixing costs (i.e., performance in mixed-task blocks vs. single-task blocks) in older adults than in young adults, and preparation effects were smaller in older adults than in young adults. In Experiment 2, where CSIs were blocked instead of randomly varied, we replicated reduced effects of task preparation in older adults. N-2 task repetition costs were not significant in Experiment 1 but significant in Experiment 2, and these costs did not differ across age groups in both experiments. The data suggest a task-preparation deficit in older adults that contributes to increased mixing costs in older adults.

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