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Can older adults enhance task-switching performance by verbal self-instructions? The influence of working-memory load and early learning.

Kray J, Lucenet J, Blaye A - Front Aging Neurosci (2010)

Bottom Line: In this study we examined (a) whether verbal self-instructions can enhance task-switching performance in younger and older adults, and (b) whether verbal self-instruction benefits on task switching are smaller when memory demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced by spatial task cueing.Results indicated that age differences in verbalization benefits on mixing costs depend on early learning whereby benefits were generally larger when subjects had some prior practice in task switching alone, and that verbalization benefits did not differ between the two task-sequencing load conditions.These findings suggest that task naming is a suitable cognitive intervention for enhancing the control of task switching in younger and older adults, even if memory load is reduced, and that for the efficient application of this strategy it first has to be coordinated with task switching, which is easier when task switching is already practiced.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Development of Language, Learning, and Action, Department of Psychology, Saarland University Saarbrücken, Germany.

ABSTRACT
In this study we examined (a) whether verbal self-instructions can enhance task-switching performance in younger and older adults, and (b) whether verbal self-instruction benefits on task switching are smaller when memory demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced by spatial task cueing. Task-switching ability was measured as the difference in performance between single-task and mixed-task blocks (termed mixing costs), in which participants switched between two tasks A and B. One group of participants performed the switching tasks with spatial task cues, indicating which of the two tasks has to be performed, thereby reducing demands on the endogenous control of serial task order (low task-sequencing load). The other group switched between tasks without external task cues (high task-sequencing load). To investigate the influence of verbal self-instructions on task switching, participants either named aloud the next task during task preparation (task-naming condition) or they did not verbalize (control condition). Results indicated that age differences in verbalization benefits on mixing costs depend on early learning whereby benefits were generally larger when subjects had some prior practice in task switching alone, and that verbalization benefits did not differ between the two task-sequencing load conditions. These findings suggest that task naming is a suitable cognitive intervention for enhancing the control of task switching in younger and older adults, even if memory load is reduced, and that for the efficient application of this strategy it first has to be coordinated with task switching, which is easier when task switching is already practiced.

No MeSH data available.


CTI = time between fixation onset and target presentation; RCI = time between the response and the presentation of the next fixation cross. The task sequence was AABBAA… in the high- and low task-sequencing condition. In the low task-sequencing condition the upper position indicated that task A (the object task: car or dog?) was required and the lower position that task B (the color task: blue or orange?) should be performed. In the verbalization conditions, task naming starts with the onset of the fixation cross.
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Figure 1: CTI = time between fixation onset and target presentation; RCI = time between the response and the presentation of the next fixation cross. The task sequence was AABBAA… in the high- and low task-sequencing condition. In the low task-sequencing condition the upper position indicated that task A (the object task: car or dog?) was required and the lower position that task B (the color task: blue or orange?) should be performed. In the verbalization conditions, task naming starts with the onset of the fixation cross.

Mentions: A number of recent studies also suggested that verbal processes supporting the retrieval of the next task goal are primarily required when external task cues are missing (Baddeley et al., 2001; Emerson and Miyake, 2003; Miyake et al., 2004; Saeki and Saito, 2004; Bryck and Mayr, 2005). Thus, under these conditions verbal processes serve as a useful retrieval aid. In addition to replicating previous findings, a specific aim of the present study was to examine whether older adults also benefit from verbal self-instructions when demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced. To manipulate task-sequence memory demands, one group of participants performed the switching tasks without external cues (cf. Kray and Lindenberger, 2000; Bryck and Mayr, 2005). All targets appeared in one grid and participants only knew by the predictability of the task sequence (AABBAA and so on), which task they should perform in the next trial (see Figure 1). For the other group of participants, the targets appeared in two grids (cf. Bryck and Mayr, 2005), in the upper grid subjects were instructed to perform task A and in the lower grid they should perform task B. That is, the first two targets always appeared in the upper grid, indicating task A, and the next two targets in the lower grid, indicating task B and so forth. Thus, demands on keeping track of the task sequence were lower as the spatial position of target appearance was a valid cue for each of the two tasks. In line with previous findings (Bryck and Mayr, 2005), we expected that with the presence of spatial task cues (i.e., lower task-sequencing demands), verbal cueing is less needed so that benefits of verbal self-instructions on mixing costs will be reduced, at least for younger adults. However, so far we do not know and had no specific prediction about whether older adults will give up a verbal retrieval aid in situations in which external retrieval aids can be used.


Can older adults enhance task-switching performance by verbal self-instructions? The influence of working-memory load and early learning.

Kray J, Lucenet J, Blaye A - Front Aging Neurosci (2010)

CTI = time between fixation onset and target presentation; RCI = time between the response and the presentation of the next fixation cross. The task sequence was AABBAA… in the high- and low task-sequencing condition. In the low task-sequencing condition the upper position indicated that task A (the object task: car or dog?) was required and the lower position that task B (the color task: blue or orange?) should be performed. In the verbalization conditions, task naming starts with the onset of the fixation cross.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2992032&req=5

Figure 1: CTI = time between fixation onset and target presentation; RCI = time between the response and the presentation of the next fixation cross. The task sequence was AABBAA… in the high- and low task-sequencing condition. In the low task-sequencing condition the upper position indicated that task A (the object task: car or dog?) was required and the lower position that task B (the color task: blue or orange?) should be performed. In the verbalization conditions, task naming starts with the onset of the fixation cross.
Mentions: A number of recent studies also suggested that verbal processes supporting the retrieval of the next task goal are primarily required when external task cues are missing (Baddeley et al., 2001; Emerson and Miyake, 2003; Miyake et al., 2004; Saeki and Saito, 2004; Bryck and Mayr, 2005). Thus, under these conditions verbal processes serve as a useful retrieval aid. In addition to replicating previous findings, a specific aim of the present study was to examine whether older adults also benefit from verbal self-instructions when demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced. To manipulate task-sequence memory demands, one group of participants performed the switching tasks without external cues (cf. Kray and Lindenberger, 2000; Bryck and Mayr, 2005). All targets appeared in one grid and participants only knew by the predictability of the task sequence (AABBAA and so on), which task they should perform in the next trial (see Figure 1). For the other group of participants, the targets appeared in two grids (cf. Bryck and Mayr, 2005), in the upper grid subjects were instructed to perform task A and in the lower grid they should perform task B. That is, the first two targets always appeared in the upper grid, indicating task A, and the next two targets in the lower grid, indicating task B and so forth. Thus, demands on keeping track of the task sequence were lower as the spatial position of target appearance was a valid cue for each of the two tasks. In line with previous findings (Bryck and Mayr, 2005), we expected that with the presence of spatial task cues (i.e., lower task-sequencing demands), verbal cueing is less needed so that benefits of verbal self-instructions on mixing costs will be reduced, at least for younger adults. However, so far we do not know and had no specific prediction about whether older adults will give up a verbal retrieval aid in situations in which external retrieval aids can be used.

Bottom Line: In this study we examined (a) whether verbal self-instructions can enhance task-switching performance in younger and older adults, and (b) whether verbal self-instruction benefits on task switching are smaller when memory demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced by spatial task cueing.Results indicated that age differences in verbalization benefits on mixing costs depend on early learning whereby benefits were generally larger when subjects had some prior practice in task switching alone, and that verbalization benefits did not differ between the two task-sequencing load conditions.These findings suggest that task naming is a suitable cognitive intervention for enhancing the control of task switching in younger and older adults, even if memory load is reduced, and that for the efficient application of this strategy it first has to be coordinated with task switching, which is easier when task switching is already practiced.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Development of Language, Learning, and Action, Department of Psychology, Saarland University Saarbrücken, Germany.

ABSTRACT
In this study we examined (a) whether verbal self-instructions can enhance task-switching performance in younger and older adults, and (b) whether verbal self-instruction benefits on task switching are smaller when memory demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced by spatial task cueing. Task-switching ability was measured as the difference in performance between single-task and mixed-task blocks (termed mixing costs), in which participants switched between two tasks A and B. One group of participants performed the switching tasks with spatial task cues, indicating which of the two tasks has to be performed, thereby reducing demands on the endogenous control of serial task order (low task-sequencing load). The other group switched between tasks without external task cues (high task-sequencing load). To investigate the influence of verbal self-instructions on task switching, participants either named aloud the next task during task preparation (task-naming condition) or they did not verbalize (control condition). Results indicated that age differences in verbalization benefits on mixing costs depend on early learning whereby benefits were generally larger when subjects had some prior practice in task switching alone, and that verbalization benefits did not differ between the two task-sequencing load conditions. These findings suggest that task naming is a suitable cognitive intervention for enhancing the control of task switching in younger and older adults, even if memory load is reduced, and that for the efficient application of this strategy it first has to be coordinated with task switching, which is easier when task switching is already practiced.

No MeSH data available.