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Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2018 May;71(5):1219-1233. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2017.1311352. Epub 2018 Jan 1.

Effects of age on inhibitory control are affected by task-specific features.

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1 Human Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology Department, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
2 Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, Donostia, Spain.
3 Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, Psychology Department, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Older adults have been argued to have impoverished inhibitory control compared to younger adults. However, these effects of age may depend on processing speed and their manifestation may furthermore depend on the type of inhibitory control task that is used. We present two experiments that examine age effects on inhibition across three tasks: a Simon arrow, static flanker and motion flanker task. The results showed overall slower reaction times (RTs) for older adults on all three tasks. However, effects of age on inhibition costs were only found for the Simon task, but not for the two flanker tasks. The motion flanker task furthermore showed an effect of baseline processing speed on the relation between age and inhibition costs. Older adults with slower baseline responses showed smaller inhibition costs, suggesting they were affected less by the flanker items than faster older adults. These findings suggest that effects of age on inhibition are task dependent and can be modulated by task-specific features such as the type of interference, type of stimuli and processing speed.


Cognitive ageing; Simon task; flanker task; inhibition

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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