Multi-Tasking and Aging: Do Older Adults Benefit from Performing a Highly Practiced Task? Public Deposited

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  • The present study examined the effect of training on age differences in performing a highly practiced task using the psychological refractory period (PRP) paradigm (Pashler, 1984). Earlier training studies have concentrated on tasks that are not already overlearned. The present question of interest is whether task dual-task integration will be more efficient when single-task performance is approaching asymptotic levels. METHOD: Task 1 was red/green signal discrimination (green = “go” and red = “wait”; analogous to pedestrian signals) and Task 2 was tone discrimination (white noise vs. a horn “honk”; analogous to traffic sound). The stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between Task 1 and Task 2 was varied (50 ms, 150 ms, 600 ms, and 1000 ms). All individuals participated in eight sessions spread over eight weeks (one session per week). Participants completed a dual-task pre-test (Week 1), followed by 6 weeks of single-task testing (Weeks 2-7), followed by a dual-task post-test (Week 8). CONCLUSION: Although older adults showed larger overall dual-task costs (i.e., PRP effects), they were able to reduce the costs with practice as much as younger adults. However, even when training on Task 1 results in asymptotic performance, this still did not lead to an appreciable reduction in dual-task costs. Also, older adults, but not younger adults, responded more rapidly to green stimuli than to red stimuli in the Task 1 training latency data. We confirmed this green/go bias using diffusion modeling, which takes into account response time and error rates at the same time. This green/go bias is potentially dangerous at crosswalks, especially when combined with large dual-task interference, and might contribute to the high rate of crosswalk accidents in the elderly.
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  • Allen, P. A., Lien, M. C., Ruthruff, E., & Voss, A. (2014). Multitasking and aging: do older adults benefit from performing a highly practiced task?. Experimental Aging Research, 40(3), 280-307. doi:10.1080/0361073X.2014.896663
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  • 40
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  • 3
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