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Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research 1/2018

13-10-2017 | Original Article

Task intentions and their implementation into actions: cognitive control from adolescence to middle adulthood

Auteurs: Edita Poljac, Rianne Haartsen, Renske van der Cruijsen, Andrea Kiesel, Ervin Poljac

Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 1/2018

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Abstract

Cognitive control processes involved in human multitasking arise, mature, and decline across age. This study investigated how age modulates cognitive control at two different levels: the level of task intentions and the level of the implementation of intentions into the corresponding actions. We were particularly interested in specifying maturation of voluntary task choice (intentions) and task-switching execution (their implementations) between adolescence and middle adulthood. Seventy-four participants were assigned to one of the four age groups (adolescents, 12–17 years; emerging adults, 18–22 years; young adults, 23–27 years; middle-aged adults, 28–56 years). Participants chose between two simple cognitive tasks at the beginning of each trial before pressing a spacebar to indicate that the task choice was made. Next, a stimulus was presented in one of the three adjacent boxes, with participants identifying either the location or the shape of the stimulus, depending on their task choice. This voluntary task-switching paradigm allowed us to investigate the intentional component (task choice) separately from its implementation (task execution). Although all participants showed a tendency to repeat tasks more often than switching between them, this repetition bias was significantly stronger in adolescents than in any adult group. Furthermore, participants generally responded slower after task switches than after task repetitions. This switch cost was similar across tasks in the two younger groups but larger for the shape than the location task in the two older groups. Together, our results demonstrate that both task intentions and their implementation into actions differ across age in quite specific ways.
Voetnoten
1
Cognitive tasks can differ in their relative strength due to various factors, such as task difficulty, familiarity, and the amount of practice. A stronger task of a pair is the one that participants find easier to execute, because it is less difficult, more familiar, or more practiced. In the remainder of this paper, we used the terms easier and harder to refer to the stronger and the weaker task, respectively.
 
2
The differences in labelling reflect differences in research traditions: While the term mixing costs is mostly used within the research field of cognitive psychology, the term global costs is more common within the developmental and aging research fields. Please note that the two are not always measured in the same way. Mixing costs are typically measured as a difference in task repetition performance when comparing single tasks blocks with mixed task blocks, whereas global costs are mainly measured as a difference in performance between single task blocks and mixed task blocks, including the switch trials in the latter.
 
3
This observation of age differentiation for percentages of task repetitions was confirmed when using Age as continuous variable: Spearman’s rank-order correlation reveled that percentages of task repetitions had a tendency to decrease with age (r s = −.22, p = .056).
 
4
When correcting for possible baseline differences between the groups by applying the logarithmic transformation of the RT data, which is a data correction method often used in studies on aging (cf. Kray & Lindenberger, 2000; Mayr, 2001), we observed that the three-way interaction between Task, Transition, and Age became marginally significant, with F(3,70) = 2.39; p = .076.
 
5
The observations of age-related changes in switch costs and switch cost asymmetry was confirmed when using age as continuous variable: Spearman’s rank-order correlation reveled that while switch costs were stable across age (r s = .10, p = .376), switch cost asymmetry declined with age (r s = −.26, p = .023).
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
Task intentions and their implementation into actions: cognitive control from adolescence to middle adulthood
Auteurs
Edita Poljac
Rianne Haartsen
Renske van der Cruijsen
Andrea Kiesel
Ervin Poljac
Publicatiedatum
13-10-2017
Uitgeverij
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Gepubliceerd in
Psychological Research / Uitgave 1/2018
Print ISSN: 0340-0727
Elektronisch ISSN: 1430-2772
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0927-x