Effect of Aging on Inhibitory Attentional Mechanisms


The ability to inhibit the processing of irrelevant information declines as adults age (Hasher & Zacks, 1988; Lustig, Hasher and Tonev, 2006; Mayr, 2001). However, previous research investigating inhibitory control in older adults has not evaluated the extent to which irrelevant information is processed and later recognized. Using a dual task paradigm with young adults, Dewald, Sinnett, and Doumas (2011) demonstrated inhibited recognition for previously ignored words, provided they had appeared infrequently with targets in the primary task, compared to words that did not appear with targets. The current study adapted this paradigm to examine inhibitory mechanisms in a sample of older adults. Here, older adults exhibited inhibited recognition for all words while young adults continued to show greater inhibition for words that had appeared with targets compared to words that had not. This finding suggests that older adults may experience a decline in the selective inhibition of irrelevant information.

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