Adult age differences in task switching

Psychol Aging. 2000 Mar;15(1):126-47. doi: 10.1037//0882-7974.15.1.126.


Age differences in 2 components of task-set switching speed were investigated in 118 adults aged 20 to 80 years using task-set homogeneous (e.g., AAAA ...) and task-set heterogeneous (e.g., AABBAABB ... ) blocks. General switch costs were defined as latency differences between heterogeneous and homogeneous blocks. whereas specific switch costs were defined as differences between switch and nonswitch trials within heterogeneous blocks. Both types of costs generalized over verbal, figural, and numeric stimulus materials; were more highly correlated to fluid than to crystallized abilities; and were not eliminated after 6 sessions of practice, indicating that they reflect basic and domain-general aspects of cognitive control. Most important, age-associated increments in costs were significantly greater for general than for specific switch costs, suggesting that the ability to efficiently maintain and coordinate 2 alternating task sets in working memory instead of 1 is more negatively affected by advancing age than the ability to execute the task switch itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition*
  • Color Perception
  • Female
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Intelligence
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time
  • Task Performance and Analysis