Age-Related Differences in Multiple Task Monitoring

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Todorov, Ivo ; Del Missier, Fabio ; Mäntylä, Timo (2014)
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 9, issue 9 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC4162647, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107619
  • Subject: Q | R | Research Article | Biology and Life Sciences | Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | Neuroscience | Social Sciences | Science | Medicine | Experimental Psychology | Cognitive Science

Coordinating multiple tasks with narrow deadlines is particularly challenging for older adults because of age related decline in cognitive control functions. We tested the hypothesis that multiple task performance reflects age- and gender-related differences in executive functioning and spatial ability. Young and older adults completed a multitasking session with four monitoring tasks as well as separate tasks measuring executive functioning and spatial ability. For both age groups, men exceeded women in multitasking, measured as monitoring accuracy. Individual differences in executive functioning and spatial ability were independent predictors of young adults' monitoring accuracy, but only spatial ability was related to sex differences. For older adults, age and executive functioning, but not spatial ability, predicted multitasking performance. These results suggest that executive functions contribute to multiple task performance across the adult life span and that reliance on spatial skills for coordinating deadlines is modulated by age.
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