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The Impact of Age on Task Transition Reaction Congruency

Abstract

Response-congruency consequences in multitasking are the reported reduction of reaction times (RTs) for conflicting stimuli that provide several responses (based on activity) relative to congruent signals that allow only one reaction irrespective of task. It is believed that these consequences result from more significant uncertainty during response choice to incongruent signals. This study aimed to investigate possible age-related impacts on the response-congruency impact in multitasking. An experimental correlation design was adopted. Subjects were recruited from the campus population. A total of 173 participants were recruited for the study. A sequence of 15 words was shown progressively for one second, with a one-second gap between each event. Twenty pictures were subsequently given, each lasting two seconds and separated by a one-second interval. Accuracy was recorded overall and reaction Time in msec overall for congruent and incongruent trials. The results showed that the association between age and congruent reaction time was weak and negative. Moreover, this association was not significant. The association between age and incongruent reaction time was weak and positive; however, the association was not significant. The findings add to the burgeoning body of literature that concentration or executive performance is not influenced by age.

 

Introduction

The environment in which humans exist is immensely complex and multitasking, with numerous stimuli contending for human attention. To operate in a goal-directed fashion, the intelligent system must be capable of choosing appropriate incentives to act on. Yet stimulus choice is only half of the equation, as many signals are multivalent; – i.e., the identical stimulus can frequently be used for multiple tasks (Grange & Becker, 2019). For instance, numerous activities can be accomplished on a computer; therefore, the mental process must be able to choose the right task amid conflicting options. Once selected, this job must be reliably maintained in the system to prevent task-irrelevant interruptions (Grange & Becker, 2019). Likewise, this task depiction must be adaptable enough to transition to a new one if our objectives change. The conflict between consistency and adaptability is regarded as the stability–flexibility paradox (Monsell & Driver, 2000).

The Stroop activity, a classic assessment of executive performance, consists of the delivery of signals with two components (word sense and colour) which may compete (incongruent colour-word stimuli, such as the word red written in blue) or overlay (Zurrón et al., 2014). Subjects are typically instructed to respond just to the stimulus’s colour and disregard its meaning. Invariably and irrespective of age, incongruent stimuli elicit a slower response versus congruent stimuli (Zurrón et al., 2014).The Stroop effect is responsive to the cognitive impairment linked to ageing, as evidenced by the reality that the behavioural reaction to congruent as well as incongruent stimulation is sluggish in elderly adults, and the Stroop impact is more remarkable in elderly adults than in youngsters (Pea-Casanova et al., 2009). Historically, the generalised slowing explanation has been employed to describe the behavioural decrease found in the Stroop assignment among the aged. This concept is predicated chiefly on response times (RTs).This offers a metric of cognitive working speed. It is believed that the weaker information dispensation in elderly adults compared to younger ones is generalised and systematic from the initial processing steps onward (Salthouse, 1996).

In the Stroop studies, it is commonly asserted that increasing age through maturity is related to an enhancement in the Stroop impact (Ivnik et al., 1996), far more than might be predicted given the overall slowing found during this same timeframe. Nevertheless, Verhaeghen and De Meersman (1998) revealed in a meta-analysis of Twenty investigations that this was not the reality. Even though the average disparity between incongruent and control situations grows from young to older individuals, the discrepancy is no more significant than anticipated due to the general slowdown of the population. In their study, Salthouse et al. (1997) discovered comparable results. The authors studied age-related variations circumstances of a spatial Stroop activity while adjusting for neural condition-related variables. They discovered no indication of age-related variations in interruption or support beyond those related to reaction speed. In comparison, investigations studying the Simon effect provide representations of interaction forces beyond what would be predicted by general retardation (Bialystok et al., 2004).

Kray and Ferdinand (2014) observed that task-shifting experiment has become a prominent method for investigating the future age-linked deterioration in executive function. In their meta-analysis, Wasylyshyn et al. (2011) revealed no age-related deterioration in RT switching costs, indicating no age-linked decrease in cognitive regulation after accounting for the overall slowing normally observed in older persons. However, did a definite age-related deterioration in the capacity to withstand a singular objective in multitasking scenarios, as measured by the mixing cost was identified: Mixed blocks are linked to sluggish RTs for task repeats compared to the pure blocks; the cost is believed to be related to the costs of keeping a task depiction within a shifting framework (Grange & Houghton, 2014).

The majority of the task flipping work has focused on the switching cost as an assessment of intelligence regulation. In accordance with this emphasis, the majority of the task shifting and ageing studies, along with the observations by Wasylyshyn et al. (2011) in their study, have centred on the switching cost as well as the mixing costs. Nonetheless, the switching cost is only one of a cluster of task shifting occurrences that may represent cognitive regulatory mechanisms; a comprehensive model of executive function throughout task switching have to go further than clarifying the switching cost as well as highlight the underlying processes that lend credence to the entire cluster of possible impact (Altmann & Gray, 2008).

Considering that the response-congruency impact gives an essential better understanding of the processes of response choices during multitasking (Schneider, 2015; Schneider & Logan, 2015), it might also be unexpected that it has not been the subject of a great deal of empirical study within age-related changes. The inhibition-deficit theory of Hasher et al. (2007), a major explanation of cognitive loss in healthful ageing, suggests that cognitive suppression and, therefore, the capacity and willingness to deal with an interruption during reaction choice is less effective with ageing.In their study, Falkenstein et al. (2006) discovered that the prolonged RT in the aged compared to young individuals was solely correlated with interruptions in the timing of motor ERP elements in choice RT activities. In addition, the N2b as well as P3b elements, which are documented all through oddball activities (wherein respondents are required to determine an occasional stimulation that distinguishes from the other, regular stimulation in some attribute) but which are associated with stimulus assessment and classification mechanisms in cognitive function, exhibited deferred response times in older versus younger participants. In comparison, the early components linked with the most fundamental perceptual mechanisms showed no age-related variations (Amenedo & Daz, 1998).

The incongruence or congruence judgement Stroop test, in which subjects judge if both sensory parameters (colour and lexicology) are congruent, has also been shown to be susceptible to age influences. In contrast, between a cohort of middle-aged respondents and a bunch of young respondents, a lengthier RT, a relatively sizeable Stroop impact, and lengthier latencies for N450 ERPs and the Ni  elements in the elderly than in the younger demographic was observed by Mager et al. (2007) ; nevertheless, the authors did not detect any distinctions in the response times of P occipital N1 and P300.A more significant response-congruency impacts for elderly adults on task-switching trials than in task-repetition experiments was reported by Meiran et al. (2001). Eich et al. (2016) discovered similar outcomes, with incongruency elevating error margins for older persons in mixed blocks far more than younger individuals in pure blocks. Eich et al. (2016) studied age-related impacts on response-congruency consequences in pure-blocks versus mixed-blocks using a task-switching protocol and magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on a sample of 75 older people and 62 young adults.

The many sorts of Stroop-like scenarios have been used to study distraction control in children more broadly. Rueda et al. (2004) observed age disparities between six to  seven years of age in interference (RT disparity between congruent and incongruent circumstances) but not in alert and orient. In other words, there were indications that the executive function of problem-solving among sensory features grew more swiftly between the ages of six and seven than other concentration mechanisms. Nevertheless, the findings were limited due to the limited number of participants, reducing the ability to detect even big impact sizes.

The benefit of the similarity or incongruence judgement stoop task for having studied the pace of encoding in the Stroop experiment is that respondents must concentrate their efforts on both aspects of the stimulus, thereby reducing the inhibiting aspect of the classical assignment (needing reaction to the colour and disregarding the interpretation of the word) whilst also preserving the controversy between discrepant color words. In this study, the reaction time (RT) generated by congruent and incongruent colour-word stimuli in incongruence and congruence judgement Stroop task performance by individuals of varying ages is assessed. This paper aims to investigate possible age-related impacts on the response-congruency impact in multitasking.

Method

Design

An experimental correlation design was adopted. The variable age was used as a  predictor of  incongruent reaction time and congruent reaction time.

Participants

Subjects were recruited from the campus population. A total of 173 participants were recruited for the study. The average age of the participants was 32.8 years (SD=8.4). Subjects varied in age from 18 to 55 years.

Materials and procedure

The subjects were instructed to push a button on a reaction pad as soon as reasonably practicable with one hand when both stimulus parameters were incongruent and then another click with the other hand when both sensory parameters were congruent. Before recording, a test run was performed to determine whether the subjects comprehended the guidelines and reacted appropriately.A sequence of 15 words was shown progressively for one second, with a one-second gap between each event. Twenty pictures were subsequently given, each lasting two seconds and separated by a one-second gap. The subject had to press the link as rapidly as feasible for Simple Reaction Time. Intertrial intervals fluctuated arbitrarily between 1 and 2.5 seconds over 50 trials.The response time was recorded in milliseconds . The Stroop Test involved the flashing of a colour word on display. The typography was either in a complementary or contrasting colour. The participants tapped the square corresponding to the text colour, NOT the word colour. General Precision was documented for Congruent experiments. The ink and word coincided, and Incongruent experiments, in which the ink and word did not correspond, as well as Reaction Time in milliseconds for both types of trials.

Ethical approval

The university’s research ethics committee granted approval for the investigation. Subjects were instructed through the participation information sheet before providing informed consent for the research to proceed. The subjects submitted a code word to ensure their anonymity while allowing them to be identified if they desired to remove their data from the investigation. Participation was entirely voluntary.

Results

There were a total of 173 subjects in this study. The mean age of the participants was 32.8 years (SD=8.4). Ages of participants ranged from 18 to 55 years. The mean congruent reaction time was 848.7ms (SD=108.9), while the mean incongruent reaction time was 878.3(SD=139.6). The mean Stroop difference time was 29.6ms (SD=61.8). The findings are summarised in Table 1.

 

Table.1.Summary statistics

Minimum Maximum Mean SD
Age 18 55 32.763 8.39
Congruent Reaction Time 654.9 1169.9 848.7 108.9
Incongruent Reaction Time 648.57 1303.4 878.3 139.6
Stroop difference -75.5 184.03 29.6 61.8

 

Correlations

The association between age, congruent reaction time and incongruent reaction time was examined using Pearson correlation. The results showed that the association between age and congruent reaction time was weak and negative (r=-.01, p=.88). Moreover, this association was not significant. The association between age and incongruent reaction time was weak and positive (r=.0711, p=.35); however, the association was not significant. The results are summarised in Table 2

Table.2.Correlation matrix

  Age Congruent_RT
Congruent_RT -0.01
Incongruent_RT 0.07 0.91

 

A dependent t-test was conducted on 173 participants to determine if there was a statistically meaningful difference in the mean reaction time in the congruence and incongruence Stroop task. The results showed that the mean congruent reaction time (M=848.7, SD=108.9) was significantly different from the mean incongruence Stroop task (M=878.3, SD=139.6), t (172) =-6.3, p<.001). The results are summarised in Table 3.

 

Table.3.Paired sample t-test results

Condition observations Mean reaction time S.D. t P-value
Congruent_RT 173 848.7 108.9  

 

-6.3

 P<.001
Incongruent_RT 173  

878.3

 

139.6

 

Discussion

The main objective of this investigation  was to examine how changes in cognitive control capacities influence the moment-to-moment assignment of intellectual processing—modified executive function assignments as a task-switching framework in which the incentive for responding properly on every trial was used.The association between age, congruent reaction time and incongruent reaction time was examined. The results showed that the association between age and congruent reaction time was weak and negative. Moreover, this association was not significant. The association between age and incongruent reaction time was weak and positive; however, the association was not significant. The results showed that the mean congruent reaction time was significantly different from the mean incongruence Stroop task, with a higher mean reaction time for the incongruence stroop task.

Contradictory to expectations, there was no correlation between age and response congruency. The findings reveal no clear indications for age-related influences on reaction congruency besides those that can be accounted for by older persons’ overall slowed reaction time. The absence of variances based on age is particularly compelling. In this manner, the findings diverge from those commonly observed in studies on age-related deficiencies in executive function, which indicate that youngsters and elderly persons perform poorer in these activities than young adults. These findings are significant since the response-congruency impact has been understudied in previous studies examining age-related consequences in task shifting designs. Few investigations have directly examined this problem, even though many documented ageing and task changing investigations feature designs suitable for evaluating reaction consequences. Meiran et al. (2001) discovered more substantial response-congruency consequences for elderly adults compared to other age groups on multitasking tests relative to task-repetition experiments; Eich et al. (2016) found a similar pattern in precision information. It is unclear why research that has specifically studied congruency impacts found age-related impacts, which contradicts the current findings.

The findings support the notion that there are no age-linked impairments in multitasking. In their study, Wasylyshyn et al. (2011) presented no proof for age-linked impairments in the switching cost in multitasking models: the discovery of shorter RTs to performance shifts relative to task repeats.The authors  discovered indications for age-linked deficiencies in  mixing cost: delayed reaction time  to block with multiple tasks relative to blocks with only single activity. There is mounting evidence that there are no age-linked impairments in other attention-shifting consequences as well. For instance, it is believed that efficient task switching requires the suppression of recently accomplished activities (Mayr & Keele, 2000). The n–2 task recurrence cost shows proof of suppression during task shifting. Reaction times  for ABA multitasking episodes were shown to be slower than CBA durations.

There is accumulating proof that there are no age-linked deficiencies in this impact: even though Mayr (2001) indicated higher repetition costs among the elderly, later research has revealed no behavioural differences (Grange & Becker, 2019). It is, therefore, probable that variability gives information on a distinct performance aspect than the mean degree of achievement. In other words, inconsistency consistently shows potential as a different measurement of individual performance from an average performance level.Similarly, in their study, Falkenstein et al. (2006) discovered that in choice RT activities, the prolonged RT in the aged compared to young individuals were solely correlated with interruptions in the timing of motor ERP elements. In addition, the N2b, as well as P3b elements, which are documented all through oddball activities wherein respondents, are required to determine an occasional stimulation that distinguishes from the other, regular stimulation in some attribute but which are associated with stimulus assessment and classification mechanisms in cognitive function, exhibited deferred response times in older versus younger participants.

In comparison, the early components linked with the most fundamental perceptual mechanisms showed no age-related variations (Amenedo and Daz, 1998).Meiran et al. (2001) discovered more significant response-congruency impacts for elderly adults on task-switching trials than in task-repetition experiments. Eich et al. (2016) discovered similar outcomes, with incongruency elevating error margins for older persons in mixed blocks far more than younger individuals in pure blocks. The analysis revealed no indication of age-linked changes in reaction congruency in assignment switching configurations. These results are part of a larger body of studies indicating no age-related deterioration in concentration and executive performance.

Some investigators’ inability to identify inconsistent age-related variances maybe because of the high variation level. Nevertheless, as age rises, inconsistencies rise, which is characterised by increased fluctuation in the slow region of the RT distributions due to a comparatively greater amount of very slow reactions. In comparison, rapid declines in incoherence are demonstrated from early life to emerging adulthood, and such patterns are discovered all through the allocation of reaction times, indicating that discrepancy in early life cannot be attributed solely to a system influencing only the slow fraction of the RT dispersion. Thus, variability in childhood is probably characterised by more extensive inconsistency in response.

In sum, the RT results do not show that older individuals in a Stroop e incongruence or congruence assessment test processed content more quickly or more efficiently than younger populations. The age-related slowdown is not widespread, as it does not change the essential sensory experiences, but it impacts the human brain, supporting the assessment and classification of cognitive functions. In addition, the ERP results do not corroborate alterations in the cognitive performance of older respondents during the interpretation of incongruence or congruence judgment colour-word memory tasks. The results show that the mental scaffolding concept cannot account for changes in neurofunctional as a result of aging due to a remedial restructuring of the human brain brains.

Limitations and Considerations

An interesting point that arises from these findings is why there were no age-related impacts on incongruence or congruence judgments, even though elderly individuals are receptive to such effects in both activities, as demonstrated by previous research. It has been claimed that the opportunity cost and time influences conduct not only in an age-dependent fashion in regards to how it influences response time and precision but also in a process-dependent one. This conclusion is consistent with previous research demonstrating that older individuals vary from younger adults in their basic intellectual control capabilities and their use of such resource constraints to manage controversy and adjust dynamically to changing task situations. Future research could also include a debriefing technique to distinguish between subjects who are capable of adapting to the challenges of the work and those who are unable. Maybe this observation’s most significant conclusion is that inconsistencies are a characterization or summation of achievement that may be attributable to various sources. In other words, it is an event that should be defined within the framework of the assigned task.

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