Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This experiment was conducted to examine whether older adults are capable of developing attentional strategies to reduce interference from irrelevant information. Sixty young and 60 older adults were asked to name the ink color of a non-black neutral word, which was presented adjacent to a color word or a neutral word (Lowe & Mitterer, 1982). Twelve young and 12 older adults were assigned to 1 of 5 list compositions. The first list consisted of 100% congruent items (ink color of a neutral word compatible with the color word), and 0% incongruent items (ink color of a neutral word incompatible with the color word; 100C/0I). The remaining lists consisted of 75I/25C, 50I/50C, 25F75C and 0I/100C, respectively. Participants' interference and facilitation scores were computed. The results indicated that older adults experienced more interference on incongruent trials than did young adults, which is indicative of inhibitory decline. However, both young and older adults showed decreased interference as the proportion of incongruent trials increased suggesting that increasing age does not impair the ability to adapt to contextual demands of a task. Facilitation effects were greater for older adults than for young adults in the mostly congruent condition, indicating that they suffered no loss of activation ability. Overall, this study indicates that while older adults suffer from an inhibitory decline, they are capable of attentional control.


Cognition and Perception | Psychology