Cognitive declines in healthy aging: Evidence from multiple aspects of interference resolution

Corinne Pettigrew, Randi C. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study tested the hypothesis that older adults show age-related deficits in interference resolution, also referred to as inhibitory control. Although oftentimes considered as a unitary aspect of executive function, various lines of work support the notion that interference resolution may be better understood as multiple constructs, including resistance to proactive interference (PI) and responsedistractor inhibition (e.g., Friedman&Miyake, 2004). Using this dichotomy, the present study assessed whether older adults (relative to younger adults) show impaired performance across both, 1, or neither of these interference resolution constructs. To do so, we used multiple tasks to tap each construct and examined age effects at both the single task and latent variable levels. Older adults consistently demonstrated exaggerated interference effects across resistance to PI tasks. Although the results for the response-distractor inhibition tasks were less consistent at the individual task level analyses, age effects were evident on multiple tasks, as well as at the latent variable level. However, results of the latent variable modeling suggested declines in interference resolution are best explained by variance that is common to the 2 interference resolution constructs measured herein. Furthermore, the effect of age on interference resolution was found to be both distinct from declines in working memory, and independent of processing speed. These findings suggest multiple cognitive domains are independently sensitive to age, but that declines in the interference resolution constructs measured herein may originate from a common cause.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-204
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Aging
  • Executive function
  • Inhibition
  • Interference resolution
  • Proactive interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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