General slowing and education mediate task switching performance across the life-span

Luca Moretti, Carlo Semenza, Antonino Vallesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study considered the potential role of both protective factors (cognitive reserve, CR) and adverse ones (general slowing) in modulating cognitive flexibility in the adult life-span. Method: Ninety-eight individuals performed a task-switching (TS) paradigm in which we adopted a manipulation concerning the timing between the cue and the target. Working memory demands were minimized by using transparent cues. Additionally, indices of cognitive integrity, depression, processing speed and different CR dimensions were collected and used in linear models accounting for TS performance under the different time constraints. Results: The main results showed similar mixing costs and higher switching costs in older adults, with an overall age-dependent effect of general slowing on these costs. The link between processing speed and TS performance was attenuated when participants had more time to prepare. Among the different CR indices, formal education only was associated with reduced switch costs under time pressure. Discussion: Even though CR is often operationalized as a unitary construct, the present research confirms the benefits of using tools designed to distinguish between different CR dimensions. Furthermore, our results provide empirical support to the assumption that processing speed influence on executive performance depends on time constraints. Finally, it is suggested that whether age differences appear in terms of switch or mixing costs depends on working memory demands (which were low in our tasks with transparent cues).

Original languageEnglish
Article number630
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - May 4 2018


  • Cognitive aging
  • Cognitive reserve
  • Speed of processing
  • Task-switching
  • Transparent cue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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