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Journal of Experimental Psychology: 2015 American Psychological Association

Human Perception and Performance 0096-1523/15/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000078

2015, Vol. 41, No. 4, 10631083

Executive Attentional Resources in Timing:

Effects of Inhibitory Control and Cognitive Aging
Scott W. Brown, Tammy M. Johnson, Mary E. Sohl, and Meghan K. Dumas
University of Southern Maine

This research is based on an executive resource theory of timing, which postulates that time perception
relies on specialized attentional resources that support executive cognitive functions. In 4 experiments,
older and younger participants performed a timing task and an executive task emphasizing inhibitory
control under both single-task and dual-task conditions. The timing task in each experiment was serial
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temporal production. The executive tasks, representing different types of inhibitory control, were the
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flanker task (Experiment 1), the number-letter task (Experiment 2), the go/no-go task (Experiment 3), and
the antisaccade task (Experiment 4). The results showed (a) a pattern of bidirectional interference in each
experiment, in that the concurrent inhibition tasks interfered with timing performance and concurrent
timing interfered with inhibition performance, (b) the older participants demonstrated a stronger bidi-
rectional interference effect relative to younger participants in 3 experiments, and (c) weaker versions of
the inhibition tasks produced weaker interference effects. These findings support the idea that temporal
processing relies on executive attentional resources.

Keywords: time perception, attention, executive function, cognitive aging

Timing is closely aligned with the executive control of behavior. The classic example of this temporal distortion is the watched pot
Decisions about withholding responses, switching attention, and phenomenon, in which the anticipated event never seems to occur
updating memory are influenced by estimations of event durations (Block, George, & Reed, 1980; Cahoon & Edmonds, 1980). This
and perceived changes in temporal relations between events. Pre- experience stands in contrast to situations in which attention is
dicting the duration of events before they occur and anticipating a distracted away from time, such as being absorbed in some task or
future sequence of events allows for planning actions and foresee- activity. In this case, time slips by unnoticed, leading to a short-
ing possible outcomes (Burt & Kemp, 1994; Tulving, 2002). ening of perceived duration so that you think less time has passed.
Coordinated activities such as speech perception, musical perfor- The interference effect exemplifies this phenomenon in a labora-
mance, and athletic performance are dependent upon temporal tory setting. The interference effect refers to a disruption in timing
tuning, the process of synchronizing temporal events in the exter- performance produced by a concurrent distractor task. In a typical
nal world with ones internal representation of the world (Michon, study on the interference effect, participants are tested under
1985). In the present work, we focus on this connection between dual-task conditions in which they attend to the passage of time for
timing and executive control. We argue that a common pool of an upcoming time judgment and also perform some demanding
attentional resources underlies both temporal processing and the nontemporal distractor task. The standard outcome is that time
cognitive mechanisms that direct our thoughts and actions. judgments under dual-task conditions are shorter, more variable,
and/or more inaccurate compared with timing-only single-task
Attentional Modulation of Temporal Experience conditions (for reviews of this work, see Block, Hancock, &
Zakay, 2010; Brown, 1997, 2008, 2010).
Attention has a powerful impact in shaping temporal experience.
When attention is focused on the flow of time (as in conditions of
boredom, impatience, or anticipation), the perception of event Dual-Task Interference
duration becomes magnified (This stop light is lasting forever), Attentional allocation is the critical element in the interference
leading to a growing sense of temporal urgency or time pressure effect (Brown, 1997; Hicks, Miller, Gaes, & Bierman, 1977;
(How long must I keep waiting?). This heightened temporal Zakay, 1989). The central idea is that keeping track of time is a
awareness produces a lengthening of perceived duration, such that demanding cognitive task, a task that consumes limited attentional
more time than normal seems to have passed by during an interval. resources. Dual-task conditions require that those resources be
shared between the multiple tasks. Because resource capacity is
spread out, the supply of resources may be insufficient to meet
temporal processing demands, and so timing performance suffers
This article was published Online First May 25, 2015.
Scott W. Brown, Tammy M. Johnson, Mary E. Sohl, and Meghan K.
(Brown, 1998; Casini & Macar, 1997; Fortin, 1999). In this view,
Dumas, Department of Psychology, University of Southern Maine. the interference effect occurs because resources are diverted away
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Scott W. from timekeeping. Supportive evidence is provided by research
Brown, Department of Psychology, University of Southern Maine, Port- designed to vary distractor task demands. One survey of this
land, ME 04103. E-mail: swbrown@usm.maine.edu literature (Brown, 2008) found that 67% of such experiments


reported that increases in distractor demands led to greater disrup- attentional resources. These tasks interfere with one another because
tion in timing performance. Fewer resources devoted to time leads they tap into the same specialized resource pool.
to greater error in time judgments. Thus, resource allocation pro- Several dual-task timing studies have focused specifically on
vides a reasonable explanation for the interference effect. executive distractor tasks. One relatively simple task is choice
The picture becomes more complicated when one considers reaction time (CRT), which invokes elementary decision making
performance on the distractor task. Most studies have concentrated processes. Two studies (Burle & Casini, 2001; Rattat, 2010) have
on timing performance, and distractor performance is a neglected shown that concurrent timing and CRT tasks interfere with one
issue. However, this issue has important implications for under- another. Sequencing is another executive function that has pro-
standing the cognitive psychology of time. Attentional resource duced consistent results. Bidirectional interference has been dem-
theory predicts that if common resources are shared equally be- onstrated between timing and sequence reasoning, sequence mon-
tween two tasks, then each task may receive a suboptimal supply itoring, and temporal order memory tasks (Brown, 2014; Brown &
of attention (Navon & Gopher, 1979, 1980; Wickens, 1984). In Merchant, 2007; Brown & Smith-Petersen, 2014). Similar results
this case, the timing task and the distractor task should compete for have been obtained in research involving memory updating and
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limited resources and produce a mutual (i.e., bidirectional) pattern timing. Brown et al. (2013); Brown and Frieh (2000); Krampe,
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of interference. In contrast, if the two tasks rely partly on different Doumas, Lavrysen, and Rapp (2010); and Ogden, Salominaite,
resource pools (disjoint resources; Navon & Gopher, 1980; Tsang Jones, Fisk, and Montgomery (2011) all found bidirectional inter-
& Shaner, 1995), then the two tasks may produce a pattern of ference between timing and a variety of updating tasks.
partial interference (such as interference for one task but not the However, other research has produced mixed results. One well-
other). If instead the tasks depend on entirely separate resource known executive task is randomization, the production of a ran-
pools (e.g., visual and auditory), then the two tasks may proceed dom sequence of numbers or letters. Brown (2006) combined
independently without any interference (Cocchini, Logie, Della serial temporal production with randomization and found a strong
Sala, Macpherson, & Baddeley, 2002). Therefore, an examination bidirectional interference effect between the concurrent tasks. In
of interference patterns can provide insight into the nature of the contrast, Ogden et al. (2011) reported that randomization inter-
resources that support timing functions. In a review of this litera- fered with timing performance but timing did not interfere with
ture, Brown (2006) uncovered 33 dual-task timing studies that randomization performance. Results involving the shifting (i.e.,
reported performance on both the timing and distractor tasks under attentional switching) function also are mixed. Whereas Brown et
single-task and dual-task conditions. About half the studies al. (2013) obtained substantial mutual interference effects between
showed interference with the timing task only, whereas the other timing and shifting tasks, Ogden et al. (2011) reported interference
half showed bidirectional interference between the two tasks. The with the timing task only and Fortin, Schweickert, Gaudreault, and
tasks interfering with timing only tended to involve perceptual and Viau-Quesnel (2010) found interference with the shifting task
low-level cognitive processing, such as manual tracking, visual only. It is important to recognize that these three studies used
search, and perceptual judgment. Tasks producing bidirectional different tasks to represent shifting, which could account for the
interference included mental arithmetic, reading, and tasks related different outcomes.
to attention and working memory. Brown (2006) contended that Indeed, a serious challenge in executive function research is that
the main feature common to the tasks showing bidirectional inter- correlations between tasks that purportedly measure the same
ference is that they were associated with executive cognitive function are usually quite low (Burgess, 1997; Lehto, 1996). Such
functions, with the implication that timing tasks and executive low correlations are attributed to the task impurity problem, which
tasks utilize that same set of attentional resources. means that any given executive task probably involves multiple
executive and nonexecutive cognitive components (Miyake & Fried-
man, 2012; Packwood, Hodgetts, & Tremblay, 2011; Schweizer,
Executive Resources and Timing
2007; van der Sluis, de Jong, & van der Leij, 2007). Task impurity
Executive functions (also known as frontal lobe functions) are is an extremely important issue in the interpretation of dual-task
cognitive control processes that direct thought and regulate behav- timing studies. For example, if mutual interference occurs between
ior (Banich, 2009; Phillips, 1997; Royall & Mahurin, 1996). Some concurrent timing and executive tasks, it is not clear as to whether
of the main executive functions include planning, resisting distrac- the effect is because of resource competition between timing and
tions, decision making, reasoning, memory updating, and atten- the executive or the nonexecutive components of the executive
tional switching (Banich, 2009; Burgess, 1997; Fournier, Lar- task. Likewise, a lack of interference could be misleading if the
igauderie, & Gaonach, 2004; Jurado & Rosselli, 2007; Logan, results are specific to the unique features of that particular task
1985; Miyake, Friedman, Emerson, Witzki, Howerter, & Wagner, rather than the executive function that the task purportedly repre-
2000; Stuss & Alexander, 2000). Conceptually, it makes sense that sents. Virtually all the previous studies in this area have used a
temporal processing would be related to executive functioning. In single task to represent a given executive function, and so are
general, executive functions involve coordination, sequencing, in- constrained by the impurity problem. From a theoretical stand-
tegration, and scheduling plans and actions, processes that are point, it is therefore critical to adopt a more systematic approach to
essentially temporal in nature (Brown, Collier, & Night, 2013). the study of timing and executive processing. One of the main
This relation between time perception and executive functioning has goals of the present research is to replicate findings with multiple
led to an executive resource theory of timing (Brown, 1997, 2008; tasks that supposedly represent the same executive function. If
Brown et al., 2013). The theory proposes that time perception is an comparable results are observed with different tasks, then one can
executive function comparable to any other executive function, and be more confident in attributing the outcome to the executive
that timing tasks and executive tasks depend upon the same set of function being tested.

Cognitive Aging and Executive Functioning processing speed, working memory capacity, and resource avail-
A different approach to investigating the relation between ex- The weakening of executive function with age offers a different
ecutive function and timing would be to compare subject popula- way to test the executive resource theory of time perception. Older
tions that differ in executive capability (e.g., see Ogden, Wearden, individuals, whose executive systems are already compromised by
& Montgomery, 2014). Research on cognitive aging suggests that aging processes, may be expected to do relatively poorly when
a relevant comparison would be older versus younger individuals faced with simultaneous timing and executive tasks. These partic-
(Krampe et al., 2010). There is an extensive literature on aging and ipants would experience greater interference because a reduction
executive functioning which offers an alternative path to the study in executive resources leads to greater competition for those re-
of attentional resources in timing. sources that remain.
Older adults perform poorly on many classic tests of executive
function (Fisk & Sharp, 2004). Neuroimaging studies have docu-
mented age-related structural changes in the prefrontal cortex,
The Present Research
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whose volume declines by 10 17% relative to young adults (see The present research is designed to explore the relation between
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West, 1996 for a review). Such findings have led to the frontal timing and inhibitory control. The research has two main elements:
lobe hypothesis, which proposes that the deterioration of the fron- (a) the use of multiple inhibition tasks, and (b) a comparison of
tal lobes with age produces cognitive impairments similar to those younger versus older participants.
observed in patients with frontal lobe lesions (Rodriguez-Aranda
& Sundet, 2006; West, 1996). Elderkin-Thompson, Ballmaier, Multiple Inhibition Tasks
Hellemann, Pham, and Kumar (2008) compared prefrontal cortical
volume and performance on various executive tasks. Error scores The experiments we report include four executive tasks, each
on the executive tasks were negatively associated with prefrontal involving some form of inhibitory control. To our knowledge,
volume, leading the authors to conclude that cortical atrophy, there is only one previous bidirectional interference timing study
rather than age per se, determines executive performance. related to inhibition. Brown et al. (2013, Experiment 3) had par-
Problems with working memory and attention are a common ticipants perform time judgment and Stroop tasks separately and
feature in cognitive aging research (Daniels, Toth, & Jacoby, 2006; concurrently. The Stroop (1935) task is traditionally regarded as a
Park & Hedden, 2001). Impairments for older individuals show up test of inhibition, in which participants must identify the print color
in tests of cognitive flexibility (Ettenhofer, Hambrick, & Abeles, of mismatched color names (e.g., the word RED printed in blue).
2006; Periez et al., 2007), the abstraction of logical rules (An- The results showed a clear bidirectional interference pattern be-
dres & Van der Linden, 2000; Zelazo, Craik, & Booth, 2004), tween timing and Stroop performance. Moreover, variations in the
planning (Allain et al., 2005), memory retrieval (Baudouin, Clarys, amount of attention devoted to the two tasks produced reciprocal
Vanneste, & Isingrini, 2009; Clarys, Bugaiska, Tapia, & Baud- trade-off effects. More attention directed to time led to better
ouin, 2009), and organizing a sequence of actions (Allain et al., timing performance and worse Stroop performance; more attention
to the Stroop task produced the opposite pattern. These results
2007). Elderly persons are impaired in situations involving sched-
imply that the timing and Stroop tasks competed for the same pool
uling and coordinating multiple inputs (Holtzer, Stern, & Rakitin,
of attentional resources. However, the interpretation of the results
2004; Kramer & Kray, 2006; Treitz, Heyder, & Daum, 2007;
in terms of inhibitory control is problematical, as there are numer-
Verhaeghen & Cerella, 2002). All these tasks place heavy de-
ous noninhibitory theoretical accounts of Stroop performance,
mands on executive attentional resources, suggesting that reduc-
including speed of processing, automaticity, perceptual encoding,
tions in resource availability lead to deficits in performance for
and parallel processing (MacLeod, 1991; MacLeod & MacDonald,
older individuals (Park & Hedden, 2001).
Inhibition is an executive function strongly affected by aging. There is widespread agreement that inhibition is not a single,
Difficulties with inhibitory control in older adults are shown in a unified construct, but is best conceived as a set of related pro-
diverse set of laboratory tests, including resisting distractions cesses. Numerous classification schemes have been proposed.
(Darowski, Helder, Zacks, Hasher, & Hambrick, 2008), negative Hasher et al. (1999) described three types of inhibitory control
priming and directed forgetting (Witthft, Sander, Su, & Witt- functions (see also Hasher, Lustig, & Zacks, 2007; Lustig et al.,
mann, 2009), and resisting previously learned motor responses 2007): access (preventing irrelevant information from entering
(Trewartha, Endo, Li, & Penhune, 2009). Age-related deficits in working memory), deletion (suppressing the activation of irrele-
inhibitory control extend to everyday settings as well, and may vant information), and restraint (preventing prepotent information
account for instances of social inappropriateness, such as talking from controlling thought and action). Friedman and Miyake (2004)
extensively about some irrelevant topic or voicing social stereo- identified prepotent response inhibition, resistance to distractor
types (von Hippel, 2007). In an influential article, Hasher and interference, and resistance to proactive interference as three major
Zacks (1988) argued that the impairments in cognitive processing inhibition-related functions. The present research is guided by the
with age can be traced to a breakdown in inhibitory function (see taxonomy of inhibitory processes proposed by Nigg (2000; see
also Hasher, Zacks, & May, 1999; Stoltzfus, Hasher, & Zacks, Table 4, p. 237). Nigg (2000) lists four types of executive inhib-
1996). In this view, inefficiency of inhibition allows more irrele- itory control functions, and also provides examples of cognitive
vant information to enter working memory and to receive contin- tasks that relate to each function. The four functions are (1)
ued activation. According to Lustig, Hasher, and Zacks (2007), the interference control, (2) cognitive inhibition, (3) behavioral inhi-
decline in inhibitory function accounts for age differences in bition, and (4) oculomotor inhibition. We selected an inhibition

task associated with each function for the four experiments in the Experiment 1: Interference Control and the
present study as a way of mitigating the task impurity problem. Flanker Task
This broad array of tasks may help generalize the findings, or
reveal any differential effects involving specific inhibitory tasks or The flanker task was devised by B. A. Eriksen and Eriksen
processes. (1974). The task requires that participants respond to a relevant
central target stimulus and ignore irrelevant peripheral flanker
stimuli. The key manipulation is the relation between the target
Younger Versus Older Participants and flankers. In some cases, the target and flankers are compatible,
in that they are associated with the same response; in other in-
An important feature of this research concerns the participant stances, they are incompatible, being associated with different
population. Given the consistent findings showing an age-related responses. For example, one common version of the task involves
decline in performance on many inhibition tasks, we tested responding to the direction of arrowhead stimuli, with the
younger and older age groups of participants. The younger partic- central target either compatible ( ) or incompatible
ipants (age 30 or younger) were from the Psychology Department ( ) with the flankers. The typical result is the flanker
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Subject Pool of introductory psychology students at the University

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congruency effect (FCE), in which trials with compatible stimuli

of Southern Maine (USM). The students volunteered for the re- are associated with faster and/or more accurate responses, whereas
search and received extra course credit for their participation. The trials with incompatible stimuli are associated with slower and/or
older participants (age 60 or older) were drawn from the Osher less accurate responses (e.g., Alguacil, Tudela, & Ruz, 2013; B. A.
Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), whose national center is lo- Eriksen & Eriksen, 1974; Eriksen & Schultz, 1979; Eriksen & St.
cated at USM. OLLI is a nationwide network of senior colleges for James, 1986; Hbner & Lehle, 2007; Mattler, 2006). Studies of the
older people. Most of the students are retirees who take noncredit physical layout of the flankers have shown that the FCE can be
courses for fun. The OLLI students may be characterized as being enhanced by making the flankers larger or positioned closer to the
engaged, motivated, high-functioning older individuals. Virtually target, findings that have led to spotlight conceptions of visual
all the older participants were involved in other activities outside selective attention (B. A. Eriksen & Eriksen, 1974; Eriksen & St.
of OLLI that required good cognition, including tutoring, enroll- James, 1986; Heitz & Engle, 2007; Miller, 1991). In Niggs (2000)
ment in college classes at other institutions, and volunteering at classification, the flanker task is related to the interference control
hospitals and schools. They were recruited by advertisements and function, an inhibitory process that works to oppose interference
flyers, and volunteered to participate in the research without com- because of resource or stimulus competition. Typically, people
pensation. find it difficult to suppress the processing of incompatible flankers
and so experience interference in responding to the targets.
Flanker experiments involving special participant populations
General Method who suffer from diminished inhibitory control have produced a
variety of results. Whereas individuals with mild cognitive impair-
In four experiments, participants performed timing and execu-
ment (Wylie, Ridderinkhof, Eckerle, & Manning, 2007) or low
tive tasks under single-task and dual-task conditions. In each case,
working memory capacity (Heitz & Engle, 2007) tend to exhibit an
the timing task was serial temporal production, in which partici-
enhanced FCE, patients with phenylketonuria (a metabolic disor-
pants attempted to press a key at a steady rate of one key press
der associated with a decline in executive function) show no
every 5 s. The executive task was an inhibition task representing
evidence of a stronger FCE relative to controls (Channon, Mock-
one of the four functions outlined by Nigg (2000). Each experi-
ler, & Lee, 2005). Such mixed findings extend to investigations of
ment included 2 4 versions of the inhibition task. These different
cognitive aging as well. Given the association between aging and
versions were designed to induce different degrees of inhibitory
a decline in inhibitory function, one would expect that older
control. participants would produce stronger flanker congruency effects
There are two main hypotheses. First, if timing is supported by relative to younger participants. Indeed, a number of researchers
executive resources, then pairing a timing task with an inhibition report this predicted effect (e.g., Colcombe, Kramer, Erickson, &
task should lead to a pattern of bidirectional interference because Scalf, 2005; Machado, Devine, & Wyatt, 2009; Shaw, 1991; Zeef
of resource competition. Less demanding versions of the inhibition & Kok, 1993; Zeef, Sonke, Kok, Buiten, & Kenemans, 1996).
task should produce a weaker pattern of interference. Further, the However, other investigators have found that older and younger
theoretical association between timing and inhibition would be participants exhibit the FCE to the same degree (e.g., Hillman et
strengthened if most or all of the inhibition tasks produce compa- al., 2006; Hsieh & Fang, 2012; Kramer, Humphrey, Larish, &
rable bidirectional interference effects. This result would discount Logan, 1994; Li & Dupuis, 2008; Salthouse, 2010; Wild-Wall,
the possibility that the findings are related to other, noninhibitory Falkenstein, & Hohnsbein, 2008). One complication is that the
aspects of the individual tasks. Second, the decline in executive flanker task may depend on different brain mechanisms than those
functioning with age leads to the prediction that older participants that mediate other inhibitory control tasks (Kramer et al., 1994).
will exhibit a stronger pattern of bidirectional interference. That is, Another issue is individual differences in aging. Colcombe et al.
they should be more impaired on the timing task, the inhibition (2005) divided their older participants into good performing
task, or both tasks, relative to younger participants. This pattern (similar in performance to the younger participants) and poor
would provide additional support for the idea that timing is an performing (participants showing an enhanced FCE) groups, and
executive task, dependent upon the same processing resources that found that good performers had a greater concentration of frontal
maintain executive functions. lobe white matter compared with poor performers. Hillman et al.

(2006) discovered that physical activity was related to perfor- target by pressing the appropriate button (one labeled Odd and
mance with incompatible flankers, with less activity associated one labeled Even) on the response box. The instructions empha-
with a stronger FCE. sized both speed and accuracy in responding to the targets. Once
Insofar as timing processes recruit the same executive resources a response was made, the program immediately presented a new
that underlie interference control, we anticipated that dual-task set of digits for the next response. Thus, a continuous series of
conditions would produce bidirectional interference between the flanker problems was presented throughout the 3-min trial. Fol-
timing and inhibition tasks. Given the uneven findings concerning lowing the single-task trials, participants performed two dual-task
flanker performance and aging, predictions regarding the older trials, also in a random order. The Timing Congruent flankers
participants are less certain. If the flanker task is not age-sensitive, trial involved performing the 5-s serial temporal production and
then these participants would be expected to show the same congruent flankers tasks concurrently, and the Timing Incon-
general interference effects as the younger participants. However, gruent flankers trial involved concurrent timing and incongruent
if the older participants demonstrate a stronger FCE than the flanker tasks. Participants used their dominant hand for flanker
younger participants, then they may also show a stronger pattern of responses and nondominant hand for timing responses. The par-
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bidirectional interference. This outcome would occur because a ticipants were told to regard the two tasks as being equally im-
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.

stronger FCE would signify reduced inhibitory control and thus portant, and were instructed to devote 50% of their attention to
fewer resources for the concurrent timing task as well. each task.

Method Results and Discussion

Participants. Forty-four participants served in the experi- Timing performance. Across all timing conditions, the
ment. There were 20 participants (5 men, 15 women) in the younger participants generated an average of 40 temporal produc-
younger group (M age 20.3 years, ranging from 17 to 27), and tions per trial and the older participants generated 38 temporal
24 participants (8 men, 16 women) in the older group (M age productions. Each participants timing responses in each condition
69.2 years, ranging from 61 to 82). were converted into two different summary scores for analysis (see
Apparatus and stimuli. The experiment was implemented Table 1). The coefficient of variation (CV) was formed by dividing
with a desktop PC running E-Prime v.1.1 software (Psychology the SD of the timing responses by the mean response. This score
Software Tools, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA). All responses were gathered represents a relative measure of timing variability. Many studies
by the keyboard spacebar and an attached 5-button Serial Re- on the interference effect show a pattern of increased timing
sponse Box, Model 200a (Psychology Software Tools, Inc.). Stim- variability. The other score was the mean interresponse interval
uli consisted of the digits 2 through 9. Digits were displayed on the (IRI), the average length of the temporal productions. These scores
computer screen in a Times New Roman 18-point bold font. The indicate whether there was any consistent trend toward overesti-
digits were yellow and the screen background was blue. mation or underestimation. Longer temporal productions corre-
These stimuli were used to create two versions of the flanker spond to a shortening of perceived time (because more objective
task. In each case, seven digits were presented in a single hori- time must pass by before the person judges that 5 s have elapsed)
zontal line with no spaces in the center of the screen. The digit in and shorter productions correspond to a lengthening of perceived
the center was the target and the three digits on either side were the time (less objective time passes for the person to judge the interval
flankers. For the congruent version of the task, the flankers had the to be 5 s); see Doob, 1971 (pp. 2729) and Zakay, 1993 for
same parity as the target. That is, when the target was odd, detailed discussions of this issue. Hence the pattern of underesti-
the flankers were odd; when the target was even, the flankers were mation typically found in the interference effect would be reflected
even, too. All flankers had the same value but never matched the in relatively longer IRI scores.
actual value of the target (e.g., 2224222). For the incongruent Coefficient of variation. The CV scores were submitted to an
version of the task, the flankers had the opposite parity as the Attention Age (3 2) mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA),
target. As before, all flankers had the same value (e.g., 3334333). and the main effect for attention was significant, F(2, 84) 51.95,
The program selected targets randomly without replacement; once p .001, p2 .55. The mean CV scores (and SEs) for the timing
all targets had been selected, the program rerandomized the se- only, Timing Congruent flankers, and Timing Incongruent
quence and continued in the same manner. The nonmatching flankers conditions were .12 (.01), .29 (.02), and .35 (.03), respec-
flankers were selected from the appropriate set (odd or even) with
equal probability.
Table 1
Design and procedure. The participants were tested individ-
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Coefficient of Variation (CV) and
ually in a single session that lasted approximately 30 min. Watches
Inter-Response Interval (IRI) Measures of Timing Performance
were removed at the start of the session. The experimental design
Under Different Attentional Conditions for Younger and Older
involved five 3-min trials. There were three single-task trials:
Participants In Experiment 1
timing, congruent flankers, and incongruent flankers. These three
trials were presented in a random order for each participant. The Younger Older
timing task was serial temporal production, in which participants
Attention condition CV IRI CV IRI
were instructed to generate a continuous series of temporal pro-
ductions by pressing the spacebar on the computer keyboard every Timing task only .12 (.02) 4.9 (.3) .13 (.01) 4.8 (.3)
5 s until the trial ended. For the two flanker tasks, participants were Timing Congruent flankers .25 (.03) 5.6 (.5) .34 (.03) 6.0 (.5)
Timing Incongruent flankers .30 (.04) 5.5 (.5) .39 (.04) 5.9 (.5)
instructed to ignore the flanker stimuli and judge the parity of the

tively. Orthogonal contrasts were used to compare these scores. condition (M 96.1%, SE .4). The significant Attention
Contrast 1 (the single vs. two dual-task conditions) was significant, Flanker type interaction, F(1, 42) 4.07, p .05, p2 .09, was
F(1, 42) 61.91, p .001, p2 .59. Contrast 2, comparing the submitted to simple main effects tests that confirmed the decline in
two dual-task conditions, also was significant, F(1, 42) 12.79, accuracy in the dual task for both the congruent (F(1, 42) 5.33,
p .001, p2 .24. None of the other effects in the ANOVA were p .03, p2 .11) and incongruent (F(1, 42) 16.84, p .001,
significant. p2 .29) flankers. None of the other effects in the analysis
Interresponse interval. The IRI scores were submitted to a achieved significance.
3 2 mixed ANOVA, which uncovered a significant effect for The experiment provided straightforward evidence of bidirec-
attention, F(2, 84) 9.63, p .001, p2 .19. The mean temporal tional interference between the timing and flanker tasks: the
production scores were as follows: timing only (M 4.9 s, SE flanker task interfered with timing performance by making tem-
.2), Timing Congruent flankers (M 5.8 s, SE .3), and poral productions more variable and longer, and the timing task
Timing Incongruent flankers (M 5.7 s, SE .3). Contrast 1 interfered with flanker performance by making flanker responses
confirmed that the mean IRI scores increased from the single-task slower. This pattern suggests that the two tasks share common
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timing-only condition to the two combined dual-task conditions, resources. The incongruent version of the flanker task was more
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F(1, 42) 10.72, p .002, p2 .20. Contrast 2 (comparing the disruptive than the congruent version. The incongruent flankers
two dual-task conditions) was not significant (F 1). None of the not only made responses slower, but also increased variability in
other effects in the analysis were significant. concurrent timing responses. These effects are consistent with the
Flanker performance. Overall, the younger participants idea that incongruent flankers require greater involvement of ex-
made an average of 221 responses to congruent flankers and 211 ecutive inhibitory control. Aging did not produce any substantial
responses to incongruent flankers; the corresponding values for the differential effects in performance. The older participants did not
older participants were 204 and 203, respectively. Performance on produce an enhanced FCE, nor did they produce a stronger bidi-
the flanker task was assessed with two summary measures; see rectional interference effect compared with the younger partici-
Table 2. The first was the mean RT for correct responses, the pants. Both age groups showed essentially the same bidirectional
average amount of time between the appearance of the flanker item interference pattern between timing and flanker performance.
on the screen and the participants button press on the response
box. The other measure was percent correct (PC), the percentage Experiment 2: Cognitive Inhibition and the
of correct flanker responses.
Number-Letter Task
Response time. Mean RTs were submitted to a 2 2 2
mixed ANOVA. The factors were attention (single and dual task), The executive task in this experiment is based on the number-
age (younger and older), and flanker type (congruent and incon- letter task developed by Rogers and Monsell (1995). The task is an
gruent). The main effect for attention was significant, F(1, 42) attentional shifting task in which participants must switch between
116.10, p .001, p2 .73. RTs increased from the single task different stimuli and make judgments about those stimuli. A series
(M 810 ms, SE 13) to the dual task (M 982 ms, SE 23) of number-letter stimulus pairs are displayed in either the upper or
conditions. This result, combined with the timing data, demon- lower half of a screen. When the stimuli are in the upper half,
strates a pattern of bidirectional interference. A significant main participants judge whether the number is odd or even; when the
effect was also uncovered for flanker type (F(1, 42) 7.19, p stimuli appear in the lower half, they judge whether the letter is a
.01, p2 .15), with an increase in RTs from the congruent flankers vowel or consonant. The typical result in this and other set shifting
(M 882 ms, SE 17) to the incongruent flankers (M 910 ms, tasks is a switch cost, in which responses are slower and/or less
SE 19). This result corresponds to the expected flanker congru- accurate on task-shifting as opposed to nonshifting trials. Monsell
ency effect. None of the other effects in the ANOVA were signif- (2003) argued that switching between different response tasks sets
icant. up a task-set reconfiguration (TSR) process involving inhibition of
Percent correct. PC scores were submitted to a 2 2 2 the prior task set and activation of a new task set. Switch costs may
(Attention Age Flanker type) mixed ANOVA. The analysis also involve task-set inertia (TSI; Allport, Styles, & Hsieh, 1994),
uncovered a significant effect for attention, F(1, 42) 12.63, p a form of proactive interference stemming from a persistence of
.001, p2 .23. Accuracy on the flanker task declined from the the task set from the previous task. Different methodologies allow
single-task condition (M 97.4%, SE .3) to the dual-task one to distinguish between two main types of switch costs. Global

Table 2
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Correct Response Time (RT) in Milliseconds and Percent Correct
(PC) Measures of Flanker Performance Under Different Experimental Conditions for Younger
and Older Participants in Experiment 1

Younger Older
Experimental condition RT PC RT PC

Congruent flanker task only 751 (22) 97.3 (0.4) 851 (20) 97.2 (0.3)
Timing Congruent flankers 958 (33) 96.6 (0.6) 967 (30) 96.1 (0.6)
Incongruent flanker task only 804 (20) 97.3 (0.5) 832 (18) 97.7 (0.4)
Timing Incongruent flankers 995 (40) 95.9 (0.7) 1008 (36) 95.9 (0.6)

costs compare responses between mixed-task blocks (in which Method

trials alternate between the different tasks) versus single-task
Participants. Forty-one individuals participated in the exper-
blocks (in which the same task is performed repeatedly). In con-
iment. Twenty participants (1 man, 19 women) were in the
trast, local costs compare switch trials versus repeated trials within
younger age group (M age 20.0 years, range: 18 to 28 years),
a mixed block.
and 21 (5 men, 16 women) were in the older group (M age 69.1
There exists an essential relation between set shifting and inhi-
years, range: 60 to 83 years).
bition. Although psychometric studies suggest that the two pro-
Apparatus and stimuli. The hardware and software systems
cesses may be conceived of as separate executive functions were the same as in the first experiment. One button on the
(Fournier-Vicente, Larigauderie, & Gaonach, 2008; Miyake et al., response box was labeled odd/vowel and another button was
2000), it is generally agreed that shifting performance necessarily labeled even/consonant. The stimuli consisted of letters and
involves inhibitory control (Costa & Friedrich, 2012; Fournier- numbers. The letters included the vowels A, E, I, and U and the
Vicente et al., 2008). Recent reviews of the shifting literature consonants G, K, M, and R. The numbers were the odd digits 3, 5,
(Kiesel et al., 2010; Koch, Gade, Schuch, & Philipp, 2010; Vand- 7, and 9 and the even digits 2, 4, 6, and 8. These stimuli were
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ierendonck, Liefooghe, & Verbruggen, 2010) implicate inhibitory presented on the screen in a Times New Roman 18-point bold font,
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processes in a variety of attentional switching tasks. Set shifting is with the characters colored yellow and the background colored
aligned with the cognitive inhibition function in Niggs (2000) blue. The stimuli were presented on the screen as number-letter
taxonomy, which is defined as the suppression of irrelevant infor- pairs (e.g., 7G, E6, etc.). The program selected numbers and letters
mation from working memory. Nigg (2000) identifies directed randomly for each pair, and the number-letter order in each pair
forgetting as one task associated with this inhibitory process. was selected randomly with p .5.
Directed forgetting shares several common features with the TSR The placement of these stimuli on the screen was configured to
set-shifting process described by Monsell (2003), and so we shall produce nonshift and shift versions of the task. In the nonshift
treat the number-letter task as representative of cognitive inhibi- version, each letter-number pair appeared in the center of the
tion. screen. The participants task was to ignore the letter and judge to
Some set shifting research is directly relevant to the current the parity of the number by pressing the odd and even buttons
experiment. Baddeley, Chincotta, and Adlam (2001) conducted a on the response box. In the shift condition, each number-letter pair
series of dual-task studies based on an attentional resource per- appeared unpredictably in either upper half or lower half of the
spective. The shifting task was arithmetical switching, which re- screen. The screen location was determined randomly by the
quired participants to alternately solve simple addition and sub- program, with p .5. If the stimulus pair appeared in the upper
traction problems. In two experiments (Experiments 1 and 2), this half of the screen, then participants responded to the number by
pressing the odd or even button, as appropriate; if the stimulus
task was performed concurrently with either an articulatory task
appeared in the lower half, then participants responded to the letter
dependent upon phonological resources or an alternation task
by pressing the vowel or consonant buttons.1 These items
dependent upon executive resources. The results showed that the
were presented in a continuous series, with each response prompt-
executive task slowed shifting performance, whereas the phono-
ing the program to present a new stimulus pair.
logical task had no effect. Another study (Experiment 3) combined
Design and procedure. The design and procedure were sim-
shifting with a randomization task that previous research has
ilar to the first experiment. Participants were tested individually in
shown to be dependent upon executive resources. Randomization a single 30-min session. Watches were removed before testing.
disrupted shifting performance and the shifting task interfered with Participants participated in three single-task trials in a random
randomization performance, implying that these tasks relied on the order followed by two dual-task trials, also in a random order.
same attentional resources. Other research involves comparisons Each trial was 3-min long. The single-task trials included timing
of older and younger participants on various set shifting tasks. (producing a series of 5-s temporal productions via spacebar
Overall, older participants show greater switch costs relative to presses), nonshift, and shift conditions. The dual-task trials in-
younger participants (e.g., Gamboz, Borella, & Brandimonte, volved concurrent Timing Nonshift and Timing Shift condi-
2009; Gratton, Wee, Rykhlevskaia, Leaver, & Fabiani, 2009; Kray tions. Participants used their dominant hand for number-letter
& Lindenberger, 2000; Mayr, 2001; Terry & Sliwinski, 2012). A responses and their nondominant hand for timing responses. They
series of recent meta-analyses of the aging and shifting litera- were instructed to devote equal amounts of attention to the con-
ture reveal that older participants exhibit greater global switch- current tasks.
ing costs compared with younger participants, whereas local
switch costs tend to be age-insensitive (Lawo, Phillip, Schuch, Results and Discussion
& Koch, 2012; Verhaeghen, 2011; Wasylyshyn, Verhaeghen, &
Timing performance. The younger participants made a mean
Sliwinski, 2011). of 43 timing responses across all trials, whereas the older partic-
In the present experiment, we combined timing with a modified ipants made 34 timing responses.
number-letter task. Bidirectional interference between the two
tasks would support the hypothesized relation between timing and
inhibitory control. Furthermore, we expected the older participants The random selection of screen locations means that sometimes a
number-letter pair appeared in the same upper or lower screen location as
to demonstrate greater switch costs than the younger participants,
the previous number-letter pair. Consequently, the shift condition consists
and to show a stronger pattern of bidirectional interference be- of a mix of responses to shifting and nonshifting stimuli. Therefore, our
tween shifting and timing. procedure represents a conservative measure of global switch costs.

Coefficient of variation. CV scores were submitted to an effect for task (F(1, 39) 127.47, p .001, p2 .77) revealed a
attention (timing only, Timing Nonshift, and Timing Shift) strong switch cost effect, with the nonshift condition associated
age (younger and older) mixed ANOVA; see Table 3. The analysis with shorter response times (M 1,100 ms, SE 58) relative to
produced a significant main effect for attention, F(2, 78) 50.56, the shift condition (M 1,998 ms, SE 102). The age (F(1,
p .001, p2 .57. Mean scores (and SEs) for the timing, 39) 12.21, p .001, p2 .24) and Attention Age (F(1, 39)
Timing Nonshift, and Timing Shift conditions were .11 (.01), 5.28, p .03, p2 .12) effects are depicted in Figure 1. Overall,
.27 (.02), and .35 (.03), respectively. Orthogonal contrasts showed older participants (M 1,802 ms, SE 101) had longer RTs
a significant difference between the single task versus combined compared with younger participants (M 1,296 ms, SE 104).
dual tasks (F(1, 39) 109.29, p .001, p2 .74), as well as The interaction was subjected to tests of simple main effects
between the two dual tasks themselves (F(1, 39) 10.45, p contrasting the single-task versus dual-task conditions within each
.002, p2 .21). The main effect for age approached significance age group. The contrast was significant only for the older partic-
(F(1, 39) 3.98, p .053, p2 .09), indicating that the older ipants, F(1, 39) 16.80, p .001, p2 .30). This result shows
participants tended to produce more variable timing responses
a stronger pattern of bidirectional interference for the older par-
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(M .27) compared with the younger participants (M .22).

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None of the other effects in the ANOVA were significant.

Finally, the Age Task interaction (F(1, 39) 6.08, p .02,
Interresponse interval. IRI scores (see Table 3) were sub-
p2 .14) was subjected to simple main effects tests. The nonshift
mitted to an Age Attention mixed ANOVA. Both main
versus shift comparison was significant for both the younger (F(1,
effects were significant. As for the attention effect (F(2, 78)
5.69, p .005, p2 .13), the IRI scores were M 4.8 s, SE 39) 38.00, p .001, p2 .49) and older (F(1, 39) 96.98, p
.2 (timing only), M 5.5 s, SE .4 (Timing Nonshift), and .001, p2 .71) participants. Likewise, the older versus younger
M 6.2 s, SE .6 (Timing Shift). These scores were comparison was significant for both the nonshift (F(1, 39) 7.30,
subjected to orthogonal contrasts. Contrast 1 (single vs. com- p .01, p2 .16) and shift (F(1, 39) 11.91, p .001, p2 .23)
bined dual tasks) was significant, F(1, 39) 8.56, p .006, conditions. These results simply reflect the separate age and task
p2 .18. Contrast 2 (comparing the two dual tasks) did not main effects uncovered in the ANOVA. None of the other effects
achieve significance. The age effect (F(1, 39) 5.32, p .03, in the analysis were significant.
p2 .12) showed that the older participants (M 6.3 s, SE Percent correct. Percent correct scores (see Table 4) were
.5) generated longer temporal productions than the younger submitted to a 2 2 2 (Attention Age Task) mixed
participants (M 4.7 s, SE .5). The Age Attention ANOVA. The main effect for attention was significant, F(1, 39)
interaction was not significant. 14.32, p .001, p2 .27. Accuracy declined from the single-task
Number-letter performance. The younger participants made (M 97.1%, SE .3) to the dual-task (M 95.7%, SE .6)
an average of 204 number-letter responses and the older partici- conditions. The task main effect, F(1, 39) 12.31, p .001, p2
pants made 167 responses under nonshift conditions. The shift .24, showed that performance in the nonshift condition (M
conditions reduced these averages to 113 for the younger and 82 97.1%, SE .3) was more accurate than in the shift condition
responses for the older participants. (M 95.7%, SE .6). None of the other effects were significant.
Response time. Mean correct RTs were submitted to a 2 Summarizing the findings, one main result is the pattern of
2 2 mixed ANOVA, with the factors being attention (single and bidirectional interference between the tasks. The number-letter
dual), age (younger and older), and task (nonshift and shift); see task interfered with timing performance, with temporal produc-
Table 4. All three main effects and two interactions were signifi- tions becoming more variable and longer under dual-task
cant. The main effect for attention (F(1, 39) 11.75, p .001, conditions. Similarly, timing interfered with performance on the
p2 .23) showed that RTs were longer in the dual-task condition number-letter task, with responses being longer and less accurate
(M 1,751 ms, SE 126) relative to the single-task condition under dual-task conditions. Another main result is that the older
(M 1,348 ms, SE 40), indicatig that concurrent timing
age group displayed a stronger bidirectional interference effect
interfered with shifting performance. The decline in performance
than the younger group, with concurrent timing slowing shifting
applies to the nonshift and shift tasks, which points to the involve-
responses to a greater degree for the older participants. Two
ment of common executive resources in both tasks. The main
effects related to the nonshifting and shifting versions of the
number-letter task support the notion of additional processing
costs associated with set shifting. First is the expected global
Table 3 switch cost effect, with the shift task producing slower and less
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Coefficient of Variation (CV) and accurate responses compared with the nonshift task. A second
Inter-Response Interval (IRI) Measures of Timing Performance result is that timing disrupted both versions of the shifting task.
Under Different Attentional Conditions for Younger and Older The nonshift task is essentially a CRT task invoking decision
Participants In Experiment 2 making processes. Our results replicate other studies showing
Younger Older bidirectional interference between concurrent timing and CRT
tasks (Burle & Casini, 2001; Rattat, 2010). Although timing
Attention condition CV IRI CV IRI
disrupted both versions of the tasks equally, the shift task
Timing task only .10 (.01) 3.9 (.3) .12 (.01) 5.7 (.3) disrupted timing more than did the nonshift task. The stronger
Timing Nonshift displays .25 (.03) 5.2 (.5) .29 (.03) 5.9 (.5) interference may reflect the additional contribution of inhibi-
Timing Shift displays .30 (.04) 5.1 (.8) .41 (.04) 7.3 (.8)
tory processes in the shift task.

Table 4
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Correct Response Time (RT) in Milliseconds and Percent Correct
(PC) Measures of Number-Letter Performance Under Different Experimental Conditions for
Younger and Older Participants in Experiment 2

Younger Older
Experimental condition RT PC RT PC

Non-shift displays only 824 (27) 96.9 (0.4) 932 (27) 98.8 (0.4)
Timing Nonshift displays 1066 (153) 95.8 (0.6) 1580 (150) 97.1 (0.6)
Shift displays only 1634 (95) 95.8 (0.7) 2000 (93) 97.2 (0.7)
Timing Shift displays 1658 (245) 94.4 (1.1) 2698 (239) 95.2 (1.1)
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Experiment 3: Behavioral Inhibition and the control, including individuals with attention deficit disorder
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Go/No-Go Task (Trommer, Hoeppner, Lorber, & Armstrong, 1988), high impul-
sivity (Correa, Trivio, Prez-Dueas, Acosta, & Lupiez, 2010),
The go/no-go (GNG) task is a classic test of inhibitory control, low working memory capacity (Redick, Calvo, Gay, & Engle,
dating back to the earliest days of experimental psychology (see 2011), head injury (Robertson, Manly, Andrade, Baddeley, &
Donders, 1868/1969, pp. 423 425). The task requires one to Yiend, 1997), and frontal lobe damage (Drewe, 1975).
respond to certain stimuli (go) and inhibit responses to other There are numerous variations of the basic GNG task. For
stimuli (no-go). In its most basic form, the task involves a contin- example, multiple items can be designated as being go and/or
uous random presentation of two stimuli (e.g., A and B), with no-go stimuli (e.g., Langenecker, Zubieta, Young, Akil, & Niel-
participants responding with button presses to each occurrence of son, 2007; Wager et al., 2005). The go and no-go stimuli them-
an A and withholding responses to each instance of a B. Typically, selves can be distinguished in terms of different colors (Nyberg,
the majority of the stimuli are go items and the minority are no-go Brocki, Tillman, & Bohlin, 2009), different shapes (Kubo-Kawai
items. This procedure is designed to establish a prepotent (i.e., & Kawai, 2010), words versus nonword letter strings (Perea, Rosa,
automatized) tendency to respond, requiring greater inhibitory & Gomez, 2002), or living versus nonliving things (Verbruggen &
control to not respond to the occasional no-go stimulus. Nigg Logan, 2008). An important distinction can be made between
(2000) associates the GNG task with the third executive inhibitory simple (or static) and complex (or context-based) GNG tasks
function, behavioral inhibition, which involves the suppression of (Langenecker et al., 2007; Simmonds, Pekar, & Mostofsky, 2008).
automatic, well-learned, or prepared responses. GNG performance The simple GNG task corresponds to the basic task described
is impaired (slower and/or less accurate responses) in certain previously, which includes two sets of stimuli designated as being
special populations known to have difficulties with inhibitory go and no-go. The complex version is a more challenging task,
because it involves a context-based rule for deciding go or no-go
for each stimulus (Garavan, Ross, Kaufman, & Stein, 2003; Ga-
ravan, Ross, Murphy, Roche, & Stein, 2002; Hester et al., 2004).
In this case, stimuli are presented in an alternating sequence. Each
alternating item is a go stimulus requiring a response; a no-go
stimulus is one that breaks the alternation cycle by repeating. In
contrast to the simple GNG task, the complex task requires greater
working memory involvement, with stronger demands on the
preparation and planning of responses, updating of response se-
lection settings, and maintenance of task-relevant information.
Comparisons of the two versions of the task reveal that the com-
plex task impairs performance to a greater degree than the simple
task (Barber, Caffo, Pekar, & Mostofsky, 2013; Langenecker et al.,
2007; Nyberg et al., 2009). In a meta-analysis of brain imaging
studies, Simmonds et al. (2008) concluded that, in comparison
with the simple GNG task, the complex task recruits additional
brain regions, including circuits critical for executive control.
The GNG task has been used frequently in studies of cognitive
aging. Although there is evidence that older participants show
greater impairment compared with younger participants on the
simple GNG task (Sebastian et al., 2013), most studies show that
the two age groups perform comparably (e.g., Falkenstein, Hoor-
mann, & Hohnsbein, 2002; Kubo-Kawai & Kawai, 2010; Rush,
Figure 1. Mean correct response time (RT) scores and SEs for older and Barch, & Braver, 2006; Vallesi & Stuss, 2010). However, research
younger participants on the number-letter task as a function of attentional with the complex GNG task shows a consistent pattern of older
condition in Experiment 2. participants exhibiting poorer performance relative to younger

participants (Braver et al., 2001; Braver, Satpute, Rush, Racine, & quence (as in S-T-S-T-S-T . . .). For the remaining 20%, there was
Barch, 2005; Langenecker & Nielson, 2003; Nielson, Lange- a break in the alternation cycle, with a letter being repeated twice
necker, & Garavan, 2002; Rush et al., 2006). One article is in a row (e.g., S-T-S-S-T-S . . .). Participants were instructed to
particularly relevant to the present research. Grandjean and Col- respond with spacebar presses to alternating letters, but to not
lette (2011) had older and younger participants perform a simple respond to repeated letters. In both the simple and complex GNG
GNG task both with and without a concurrent executive task, tasks, no-go stimuli were always separated by at least two go
mental arithmetic. The results showed that mental arithmetic in- stimuli.
terfered with GNG performance for the older participants, who Design and procedure. Participants were tested individually
were slower and less accurate in responding under dual-task con- in a single 30-min session; watches were removed before testing.
ditions compared with the younger participants. The authors ar- The experimental design was the same as the previous experi-
gued that the older participants had fewer attentional resources to ments, with five 3-min trials divided into three single-task trials
begin with, and dividing those resources between the GNG and and two dual-task trials. The single-task trials were performed first
arithmetic tasks left insufficient capacity available for GNG per- in a random order. The trials were timing (serial production of 5-s
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formance. intervals), simple GNG, and complex GNG. The dual-task trials,
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In the present experiment, older and younger participants per- also performed in a random order, were Timing Simple GNG
formed simple and complex GNG tasks and a timing task under and Timing Complex GNG. In the dual tasks, participants
single- and dual-task conditions. We anticipated bidirectional in- operated the spacebar (go responses) with their dominant hand and
terference between the GNG and timing tasks for all participants. the response box (timing responses) with their nondominant hand.
Further, we expected that the bidirectional interference effect They were instructed to devote equal amounts of attention to each
would be greater for the older participants, particularly for the task.
complex GNG task. The simple GNG task, taxing executive re-
sources to a lesser degree, may be expected to produce a similar Results and Discussion
but perhaps weaker effect.
Timing performance. Across all timing trials, the younger
participants made 38 timing responses on average and the older
Method participants made 35 timing responses.
Participants. Fifty-nine people participated. There were 32 Coefficient of variation. CV scores (see Table 5) were sub-
participants (8 men, 24 women) in the younger group (M age mitted to a 3 2 (Attention Age) mixed ANOVA. Both main
21.9 years, ranging from 18 to 29), and 27 participants (8 men, 19 effects were significant. For the attention effect (F(2, 114)
women) in the older group (M age 69.9 years, ranging from 61 14.49, p .001, p2 .20), mean scores (and SEs) for the timing,
to 82). Timing Simple GNG, and Timing Complex GNG conditions
Apparatus and stimuli. Hardware and software were the were .12 (.03), .22 (.01), and .22 (.01), respectively. The single-
same as used previously. One button on the response box was task versus combined dual-task contrast was significant, F(1,
fitted with a red cover; this button was used for temporal produc- 57) 16.63, p .001, p2 .23. The two dual tasks did not differ
tion responses. The stimuli consisted of the letters A, B, Q, R, S, (F 1). The age effect (F(1, 57) 10.58, p .002, p2 .16)
T, Y, and Z. These letters appeared on the screen in a Times New showed that timing was more variable for the older participants
Roman 18 point bold font. The letters were white and the screen (M .23, SE .02) compared with the younger participants (M
was black. Letters were presented one at a time in a continuous .15, SE .02). The interaction was not significant.
stream in the center of the screen, with each new letter replacing Interresponse interval. Mean IRI scores (see Table 5) were
the previous one. Each letter was displayed for 850 ms and a blank analyzed in a 3 2 mixed ANOVA, and the main effect for
150 ms interstimulus interval separated the letters. There were 180 attention was significant, F(2, 114) 8.62, p .001, p2 .14.
letters total per 3 min trial. The mean scores (and SEs) for the timing, Timing Simple GNG,
Pairs of letters were used to create separate GNG tasks. Each of and Timing Complex GNG conditions were 4.7 s (.2), 5.4 s (.2),
the four trials involving a GNG task (see Design and Procedure) and 5.9 s (.3), respectively. Orthogonal contrasts showed signifi-
used a different set of letters. This arrangement was followed to cant differences between the single versus combined dual tasks
minimize potential practice effects in which participants learn to (F(1, 57) 8.18, p .006, p2 .13) and between the two dual
automatize such tasks (e.g., Verbruggen & Logan, 2008). There
were both simple and complex versions of the task. In the simple
Table 5
version, stimuli (the letters A and B in the single-task condition,
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Coefficient of Variation (CV) and
and Q and R in the dual-task condition) were presented on the
Inter-Response Interval (IRI) Measures of Timing Performance
screen individually in a quasi-randomized order. Most of the letters
Under Different Attentional Conditions for Younger and Older
(80%, or 144) were go stimuli (A in the single task, Q in the dual
Participants in Experiment 3
task), and the remaining 20% (36 letters) were no-go stimuli (B in
the single task, R in the dual task). Participants were instructed to Younger Older
respond to each occurrence of a go stimulus by pressing the
Attention condition CV IRI CV IRI
spacebar as quickly as possible, but to inhibit their response to a
no-go stimulus. In the complex version of the task, 80% of the Timing task only .08 (.04) 4.5 (.3) .15 (.04) 5.2 (.3)
stimulus letters (S and T in the single-task condition, and Y and Z Timing Simple GNG .19 (.01) 5.2 (.3) .26 (.02) 5.7 (.3)
Timing Complex GNG .18 (.02) 5.3 (.4) .26 (.02) 6.6 (.4)
in the dual-task condition) appeared in a regular alternating se-

tasks (F(1, 57) 10.42, p .002, p2 .15). None of the other 96

effects in the analysis were significant.
Go/no-go performance. The mean number of responses on
the simple GNG task was 148 for the younger participants and 143
for the older participants. For the complex GNG task, younger

Mean Percent Correct

participants made an average 142 responses and the older partic-
ipants made 131 responses.
Response time. Mean correct RTs (RTs for go stimuli) were
submitted to a 2 2 2 (Attention Age Task) mixed
ANOVA; see Table 6. All three main effects and one interaction 88
were significant. The attention effect (F(1, 57) 49.54, p .001,
p2 .47) showed that RTs increased from the single-task (M Older
372 ms, SE 8) to the dual-task (M 423 ms, SE 9) Younger
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conditions, establishing a bidirectional interference effect. The

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task main effect (F(1, 57) 39.21, p .001, p2 .41) revealed 84

that RTs were longer for the complex GNG task (M 419 ms,
SE 8) relative to the simple GNG task (M 376, SE 8). This
result fits in with the idea that the complex task is more demanding
than the simple task. The Attention Task interaction (F(1, 57) 80
21.31, p .001, p2 .27) was subjected to tests of simple main Single Dual
effects. Compared with the single task conditions, the dual tasks Attention
were associated with longer RTs for both the simple (F(1, 57)
67.87, p .001, p2 .54) and complex (F(1, 57) 8.46, p Figure 2. Mean percent correct scores and SEs for older and younger
.005, p2 .13) GNG tasks, which reaffirms the attention main participants on the go/no-go task as a function of attentional condition in
effect. The increase in response times from the simple to complex Experiment 3.
GNG tasks was restricted to the single-task attention condition,
F(1, 57) 95.58, p .001, p2 .63. Finally, there was a main
effect for age, F(1, 57) 24.16, p .001, p2 .30. The older there was a significant difference in the dual-task condition, F(1,
participants had longer RTs overall (M 435 ms, SE 11) 57) 15.16, p .001, p2 .21. The older participants (M
compared with younger participants (M 360 ms, SE 10). 81.5%, SE 1.4) were more strongly affected by the addition of
None of the other effects were significant. a concurrent timing task compared with the younger participants
Percent correct. PC scores (see Table 6) were submitted to a (M 88.6%, SE 1.3). This outcome substantiates the prediction
2 2 2 mixed ANOVA. The attention (F(1, 57) 111.23, p of greater dual-task interference for the older participants. None of
.001, p2 .66) and task (F(1, 57) 17.98, p .001, p2 .24) the other effects in the ANOVA achieved significance.
main effects were significant. These effects showed that accuracy The experiment showed a substantial bidirectional interference
declined from the single-task (M 92.6%, SE .8) to the effect between the timing and GNG tasks. GNG interfered with
dual-task conditions (M 85.1%, SE .9), and that accuracy was timing performance, with temporal productions becoming more
lower for the complex GNG task (M 85.7%, SE 1.5) relative variable and longer under dual-task conditions. Correspondingly,
to the simple task (M 92.0%, SE .5). The analysis also timing interfered with GNG performance, with slower and less
uncovered significant age (F(1, 57) 9.71, p .003, p2 .15) accurate responses under dual-task as opposed to single-task con-
and Age Attention (F(1, 57) 9.01, p .004, p2 .14) effects; ditions. This pattern of mutual interference points to a common
see Figure 2. The older participants (M 86.3%, SE 1.2) tended pool of resources underlying both the timing and inhibition tasks.
to be less accurate than the younger participants (M 91.4%, Older participants produced a stronger bidirectional interference
SE 1.1). Tests of simple main effects revealed that the two age effect compared with the younger participants, with the concurrent
groups performed equally in the single-task condition, whereas timing task reducing GNG accuracy to a greater degree for the
older participants. The older participants also had more difficulty
with the tasks overall. Compared with the younger participants,
Table 6
their timing responses were more variable and longer and their
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Correct Response Time (RT) in
GNG responses were slower and less accurate. These findings may
Milliseconds and Percent Correct (PC) Measures of Go/No-Go
reflect a general decline in executive function.
(GNG) Performance Under Different Experimental Conditions
for Younger and Older Participants in Experiment 3
Experiment 4: Oculomotor Inhibition and the
Younger Older Antisaccade Task
Experimental condition RT PC RT PC The antisaccade (AS) task was introduced by Hallett (1978;
Simple GNG only 305 (11) 94.9 (0.7) 371 (12) 95.4 (0.7) Hallett & Adams, 1980). A distractor stimulus appears suddenly to
Timing Simple GNG 382 (15) 91.5 (0.9) 447 (16) 86.3 (1.0) the left or right of a central fixation point; the task is to suppress
Complex GNG only 367 (12) 93.2 (2.2) 446 (14) 87.0 (2.3) the prepotent tendency to move ones eyes (a saccade) toward the
Timing Complex GNG 386 (13) 85.8 (2.2) 478 (14) 76.6 (2.4)
stimulus, and instead to look in the opposite direction (i.e., execute

an antisaccade). In some studies, participants are instructed to look 2000) is directly related to the present research, as participants
an equal distance in the opposite direction, whereas in others performed concurrent AS and temporal production tasks. The
participants must look to a target stimulus that appears in the temporal production tasks required participants to produce a series
opposite direction. The AS task represents the oculomotor inhibi- of either random or 1-s intervals. The results showed that both
tion function (suppression of a reflexive saccade) in Niggs (2000) timing tasks interfered with AS performance by increasing RTs
classification scheme. As outlined by Everling and Fischer (1998), and errors. Unfortunately, the authors did not report timing per-
correct performance on the task requires two processes: (a) the formance data.
inhibition of a reflexive saccade toward the distractor, and (b) the In the present experiment, we tested older and younger partic-
generation of a voluntary antisaccade in the opposite direction. ipants on serial temporal production and AS tasks, both separately
Antisaccade performance is sometimes compared against prosac- and in combination. We used instructions to manipulate the re-
cade (PS) performance, in which the task is to look in the direction source demands of these tasks. In the dual-task conditions, partic-
of the distractor. The typical result is that the AS task is associated ipants were instructed to devote specified amounts of attention to
with longer RTs and lower target identification accuracy. In an the concurrent tasks (e.g., 25% of attention to one task and 75% to
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early study on the contribution of brain function to task perfor- the other). This technique, known as the attentional sharing pro-
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mance, Guitton, Buchtel, and Douglas (1985) compared control cedure, was devised originally to investigate the allocation of
participants and surgical patients who had discrete frontal or attention in visual discrimination tasks (Bonnel, Possamai, &
temporal lobe removals on both AS and PS tasks. All participants Schmitt, 1987; Kinchla, 1980; Sperling & Melchner, 1978). Macar
performed comparably on the PS task. On the AS task however, and others used the procedure to study interference in timing
the frontal patients made more reflexive responses (looking to the (Casini & Macar, 1997; Casini, Macar, & Grondin, 1992; Coull,
distractor) compared with the control and temporal participants. Vidal, Nazarian, & Macar, 2004; Franssen & Vandierendonck,
Indeed, most frontal patients were unable to suppress the reflexive 2002; Grondin & Macar, 1992; Macar, Grondin, & Casini, 1994).
responses, and only the appearance of the target elicited the ap- In general, these studies show that the less attention directed to
propriate antisaccade. timing, the greater the disruption in time judgment performance.
Everling and Fischers (1998) review indicated that RTs and Brown et al. (2013) extended the technique from a single-trial
errors on the AS task both increase with increasing age. Since that format to a continuous task format involving concurrent timing
time, a number of empirical studies have confirmed that older and executive tasks. The results demonstrated a reciprocity effect:
participants show more reflexive responses, longer and more vari- as more attention was devoted to timing, timing performance
able response times, and/or less accuracy compared with younger improved and executive performance declined; as more attention
participants (e.g., Butler & Zacks, 2006; Butler, Zacks, & Hen- was devoted to the executive task, the opposite pattern occurred.
derson, 1999; Klein, Fischer, Hartnegg, Heiss, & Roth, 2000; The reciprocity effect implies that the two tasks share a common
Munoz, Broughton, Goldring, & Armstrong, 1998; Nieuwenhuis, resource pool. We predict a similar result in the present case with
Broerse, Nielen, & de Jong, 2004; Nieuwenhuis, Ridderinkhof, de concurrent timing and AS tasks.
Jong, Kok, & van der Molen, 2000; Olincy, Ross, Youngd, &
Freedman, 1997; Sweeney, Rosano, Berman, & Luna, 2001). Most
of these studies attribute the poor performance of older participants
to a decline in inhibitory control with age, leading to more reflex- Participants. There were 39 participants in the experiment.
ive responses. Olk and Kingstone (2009) focused on the response Nineteen participants (6 men, 13 women) were in the younger age
selection component of AS performance. Their research indicated group (M age 20.9 years, range: 18 to 27), and 20 participants
that older participants also have greater difficulty in selecting the (4 men, 16 women) in the older age group (M age 72.8 years,
correct antisaccadic response toward the target. All this work range: 61 to 81).
shows that both inhibition and response selection are important Apparatus and stimuli. Hardware and software were the
factors contributing to the age effect in AS performance. same as used in the previous experiments. Two of the buttons on
Some investigators have approached the AS task from an atten- the response box were labeled A and B. The stimuli consisted
tional resource standpoint. The research is based on the idea that of the following characters: X (in Arial, 24-point bold font),
inhibiting prepotent responses is a capacity-consuming process. and , A, B, and @ (all in Times New Roman, 24-point bold font).
Imposing an extra cognitive workload would reduce available All the characters were white and the screen background was
resources needed to inhibit reflexive responses. Dual-task studies black. These stimulus characters were used to create a continuous
involving concurrent mental arithmetic (Roberts, Hager, & Heron, series of antisaccade items. Each item involved a rapid 5-step
1994), choice RT (Vandierendonck, Deschuyteneer, Depoorter, & sequence. As the participant gazed at the computer screen, the first
Drieghe, 2008), and memory updating (Mitchell, Macrae, & Gil- event was the appearance of a fixation cross () in the center of
christ, 2002) show that these executive tasks interfered with AS the screen. The fixation appeared for a variable amount of time
performance. Moreover, the Mitchell et al. (2002) study also found (ranging randomly from 1,300 2,300 ms) before disappearing.
that the AS task interfered with updating performance. Eenshuis- Next, a distractor stimulus (the X) appeared randomly 3.5 in. to the
tra, Ridderinkhof, and van der Molen (2004) compared older and left or right of the fixation. After 225 ms the distractor disap-
younger participants on concurrent memory updating and AS tasks peared, and was immediately followed by a 150 ms target stimulus
and found that antisaccade performance deteriorated for both age (A or B), which appeared on the opposite side of the screen from
groups under dual-task conditions. As predicted, however, the the distractor. The program selected the target stimuli with equal
effect was stronger for the older participants. One dual-task study probability. Once the target timed out, it was immediately replaced
(Stuyven, Van der Goten, Vandierendonck, Claeys, & Crevits, with a masking stimulus (the @ symbol) for 125 ms. The final step

was a response display (A or B?), which appeared at the bottom 0.44

of the screen. The response display remained until the participant
identified the target by pressing the appropriate button on the
response box. Participants were encouraged to be as fast and 0.38
accurate as possible in making their responses. Once a response
was made, the program returned to the fixation to begin the next
antisaccade item. This procedure continued throughout the dura-
tion of the trial.
Design and procedure. Participants were tested individually

Mean CV
in a single 30-min session. Watches were removed at the start of
the procedure. The experiment involved five 3-min trials. There 0.26
were two single-task trials: timing (5-s serial temporal produc-
tions) and the AS task. These tasks were performed first in a
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random order. Prior the AS task, participants were familiarized 0.20

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with the procedure by performing 50 practice items. The single-

task trials were followed by three dual-task trials in which partic- Older
ipants were instructed to share attention between the timing and 0.14
antisaccade tasks in specified proportions. The proportions were Younger
(a) 75% timing/25% AS, (b) 50% timing/50% AS, and (c) 25%
timing/75% AS. The three dual task conditions were performed in
a random order.
Single Dual Dual Dual
100% 75% 50% 25%
Results and Discussion
Attention to Time
Timing performance. Overall, the younger participants made
an average of 49 timing responses per trial; the older participants Figure 3. Mean coefficient of variation (CV) scores and SEs for older and
averaged 46 responses per trial. younger participants on the timing task as a function of the proportion of
Coefficient of variation. CV scores (see Table 7) were sub- attention devoted to time in Experiment 4.
mitted to a 4 2 (Attention Age) mixed ANOVA. The
attention, age, and Attention Age effects were all significant;
see Figure 3. Turning first to the attention main effect (F(3, 111)
The main effect for age (F(1, 37) 12.70, p .001, p2 .26)
26.83, p .001, p2 .42), the mean scores (and SEs) across the
indicated that the older participants tended to produce more vari-
single-100% timing, dual-75% timing, dual-50% timing, and dual-
able responses (M .30, SE .02) compared with the younger
25% timing attentional conditions were .13 (.02), .27 (.02), .27
participants (M .20, SE .02). The Attention Age interaction
(.02), and .33 (.02), respectively. Orthogonal contrasts were ap-
(F(3, 111) 6.28, p .001, p2 .15) was submitted to tests of
plied to these scores. The single-task versus combined dual-task
simple main effects contrasting the two age groups within each
contrast was significant (F(1, 37) 45.97, p .001, p2 .55),
confirming interference in the dual-task conditions. The dual-75% attention condition. This analysis showed that the younger and
versus dual-50% contrast did not achieve significance (F 1), but older participants did not differ in the single-task timing condition
the dual-50% versus dual-25% contrast was significant, F(1, 37) (F 1), but they did differ in the dual-75% (F(1, 37) 14.23, p
14.94, p .001, p2 .28. A trend analysis of the four attentional .001, p2 .28), dual-50% (F(1, 37) 7.27, p .02, p2 .17),
conditions confirmed that timing variability increased linearly as and dual-25% (F(1, 37) 12.94, p .001, p2 .26) conditions.
attention was increasingly diverted away from time, F(1, 37) These data show that the concurrent antisaccade task produced
51.06, p .001, p2 .58. The linear trend accounted for 82.4% greater interference for the older participants. Inspection of Figure
of the variance. 3 also suggests that that there are differences in the ability of the
two age groups to regulate their attention in response to the
attentional sharing instructions. For each age group, we conducted
Table 7 a separate trend analysis across the four attention conditions. For
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Coefficient of Variation (CV) and the younger participants, the linear trend (F(1, 18) 17.19, p
Inter-Response Interval (IRI) Measures of Timing Performance .001, p2 .49) accounted for 95.0% of the variance. In contrast,
Under Different Attentional Conditions for Younger and Older for the older participants, the linear trend (F(1, 19) 34.95, p
Participants in Experiment 4 .001, p2 .65) accounted for only 71.6% of the variance. These
findings indicate that the older participants had more difficulty in
Younger Older
controlling the allocation of their attentional resources.
Attention condition CV IRI CV IRI Interresponse interval. Mean IRI scores (see Table 7) were
Single task: 100% timing .14 (.03) 4.7 (.3) .13 (.03) 4.3 (.3) submitted to a 4 2 mixed ANOVA. None of the effects in the
Dual task: 75% timing .19 (.03) 4.1 (.3) .36 (.03) 4.2 (.3) analysis were significant, indicating that there was no consistent
Dual task: 50% timing .23 (.02) 4.1 (.6) .31 (.02) 5.1 (.6) directional error in the timing responses. The overall mean IRI
Dual task: 25% timing .25 (.03) 4.0 (.3) .41 (.03) 4.3 (.3)
score collapsed across all participants in all conditions was 4.2 s.

Antisaccade performance. Younger participants made an av- between different attention conditions producing an uneven saw-
erage of 67 responses over the four antisaccade trials; older par- tooth pattern. This result is consistent with attentional sharing
ticipants averaged 56 responses over the four trials. studies reported by Tsang (2013; Tsang & Shaner, 1998), who
Response time. Mean correct RT scores were submitted to a found that older participants were impaired in their ability to
4 2 (Attention Age) mixed ANOVA; see Table 8. The main control the allocation of resources. A final result is that relative to
effect for attention (F(3, 111) 9.23, p .001, p2 .20) was the younger participants, the older participants produced longer
significant. The mean RTs for the single-task, dual-75%, dual- RTs and made more errors on the AS task, findings consistent with
50%, and dual-25% AS conditions were 441 ms (SE 30), 659 ms previous antisaccade research.
(SE 63), 738 ms (SE 79), and 911 ms (SE 110), respec-
tively. These scores increased linearly (F(1, 37) 23.40, p
General Discussion
.001, p2 .39), accounting for 97.1% of the variance. Orthogonal
contrasts revealed a significant difference between the single-task The research was designed to investigate attentional resources in
and combined dual-task conditions, F(1, 38) 23.01, p .001, time perception. Interference patterns between concurrent timing
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p2 .38. The dual-75% versus dual-50% comparison was signif- and inhibition tasks in older and younger participants produced
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icant, F(1, 38) 5.49, p .03, p2 .13; the dual-50% versus results consistent with an executive resource theory of timing. The
dual-25% comparison was not significant. The main effect for age main findings concern bidirectional interference between temporal
(F(1, 37) 28.72, p .001, p2 .44) indicated that the older judgment and inhibitory control tasks, the influence of cognitive
participants (M 965 ms, SE 72) produced considerably longer aging on interference effects, and the effects of manipulations of
RTs compared with the younger participants (M 409 ms, SE inhibitory control. We review these findings in the sections that
74). The Attention Age interaction was not significant. follow.
Percent correct. Mean PC scores (see Table 8) were submitted
to a 4 2 mixed ANOVA. The age effect (F(1, 37) 44.64, p
Interference Effects
.001, p2 .55) showed that antisaccade accuracy was lower for
the older participants (M 74.2%, SE 2.3) compared with the The data showed the classic interference effect of a distractor
younger participants (M 96.3%, SE 2.4). The attention and task disrupting time judgment performance. In all four experi-
Attention Age effects were not significant. ments, the inhibition tasks caused temporal productions to become
The experiment showed bidirectional interference between the more variable relative to timing-only control conditions. The
tasks. The antisaccade task interfered with timing performance by change was substantial, with dual-task CV scores increasing by an
making temporal productions more variable; the timing task inter- average of 139% over the single-task scores. The average CV
fered with antisaccade performance by making response times effect size, as indexed by the p2, was .44. The inhibition tasks also
longer. The attentional sharing instructions produced reciprocal lengthened temporal productions (equivalent to underestimation)
performance trade-offs. As attention shifted away from one task in three of the experiments, with IRI scores increasing an average
and more to the other, there were corresponding linear changes in of 19% from single-task to dual-task conditions (mean p2 .15).
timing CV scores and antisaccade RT scores in accordance with These results indicate that timing performance (especially time
the attentional allocation instructions. This pattern of reciprocity judgment variability) was very sensitive to the presence of the
suggests that the two tasks shared the same resources. There were inhibitory tasks. A critical result was that inhibition performance
several important results related to aging. The older participants was correspondingly affected by the timing task. Each experiment
exhibited a stronger bidirectional interference effect compared showed that RTs lengthened from single-task to dual-task condi-
with the younger participants. In this instance, the AS task dis- tions. The mean effect size across experiments was .48. Similarly,
rupted timing performance more for the older participants. Aging inhibition response accuracy declined in the dual task in three
also influenced attentional sharing. For the younger participants, experiments, producing an average p2 effect size of .34. This
attentional sharing instructions produced a smooth, graded change pattern of inhibition tasks interfering with timing and the timing
in performance on both the timing and antisaccade tasks. In con- task interfering with inhibition implies that the two tasks competed
trast, the older participants had noisier timing data, with transitions for the same attentional resources.
These results extend the findings reported by Brown et al.
(2013, Experiment 3) involving the Stroop task to a different set of
Table 8 inhibition tasks. The effect transcended different categories of
Mean Scores (and SEs) for Correct Response Time (RT) in inhibitory functions, as all inhibition tasks produced bidirectional
Milliseconds and Percent Correct (PC) Measures of Antisaccade interference with timing. Our findings also fit into a larger picture
Performance Under Different Attentional Conditions for of mutual interference between various other executive tasks and
Younger and Older Participants in Experiment 4 time judgments. Brown et al. (2013) looked at tasks representing
three basic classes of executive functions (shifting, updating, and
Younger Older
inhibition), and found that all the tasks produced bidirectional
Experimental condition RT PC RT PC interference with timing. The results speak to the unity/diversity
Single task: 100% issue of executive function (Miyake & Friedman, 2012). The issue
antisaccade 302 (43) 97.1 (2.6) 580 (42) 76.7 (2.5) is whether different executive functions represent a common un-
Dual task: 75% antisaccade 375 (90) 96.5 (2.8) 944 (88) 71.4 (2.8) derlying cognitive control process (unity), or whether each exec-
Dual task: 50% antisaccade 434 (113) 95.1 (2.6) 1041 (110) 73.7 (2.6) utive function is unique and separate (diversity). Miyake and
Dual task: 25% antisaccade 526 (157) 96.5 (2.8) 1296 (153) 75.0 (2.7)
Friedman (2012) argued that the evidence supports both views

that, to varying degrees, executive functions are correlated and whereas most of our experimental conditions emphasized demand-
share common features, but are also separable and distinct from ing concurrent tasks. Timing variability effects were more in line
one another. The wide variety of executive tasks showing bidirec- with previous research. In Experiments 3 and 4, older participants
tional interference with timing, in conjunction with the different produced more variable timing responses (as indexed by CV
inhibition tasks used in the present study, supports the unity view scores) relative to younger participants. This result parallels the
of executive function. These results suggest that timing taps into a findings in Block et al.s (1998) meta-analysis. Block and col-
general pool of executive attentional resources. leagues reported that, based on seven studies, the average CV was
In a broader perspective, our focus on mutual interference 39% larger for older than for younger participants. The average
between timing and executive tasks parallels a number of dual-task CV of the older participants in Experiments 3 and 4 of the present
inhibition studies described previously. Researchers investigating study was 61% larger than that of the younger participants. This
switching (Baddeley et al., 2001), the go/no-go task (Grandjean & value is substantially larger than the figure reported by Block.
Collette, 2011), and the antisaccade task (Mitchell et al., 2002;
Roberts et al., 1994; Stuyven et al., 2000; Vandierendonck et al.,
Manipulation of Inhibitory Control
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2008) combined these tasks with established executive tasks to

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evaluate interference produced under dual-task conditions. Bidi- Each experiment included at least two conditions designed to
rectional interference patterns led Baddeley et al. (2001) and represent different degrees of inhibitory control. This arrangement
Mitchell et al. (2002) to conclude that the inhibitory tasks de- provides another avenue to assess the role of executive resources
pended upon executive resources. Our comparable results with in timing. The extent to which the manipulations were successful
concurrent timing and inhibition tasks lead to a similar conclusion should be reflected in inhibition performance, with conditions
regarding the resources underlying timing processes. requiring lesser inhibitory control associated with better perfor-
mance and conditions demanding greater control associated with
worse performance. The inhibition performance data confirm this
Cognitive Aging Effects
pattern. Experiments 1, 2, and 3 each included a weaker and a
An important empirical question in this study was whether older stronger version of the inhibitory task, and in each case the
participants would exhibit a stronger bidirectional interference stronger version was associated with longer RTs compared
effect relative to younger participants. The rationale stems from with the weaker version. Furthermore, Experiments 2 and 3 also
the decline in executive resources with age. If concurrent timing showed that response accuracy was lower for the stronger versions
and executive tasks compete for the same resources, then the of the task. Experiment 4 involved the same version of the inhi-
resulting pattern of bidirectional interference should be greater for bition task, but with instructions to allocate different amounts of
older as compared with younger participants because of resource attention to the task. The withdrawal of attention from the inhibi-
scarcity. This predicted aging effect did in fact occur in three of the tion task led to a linear increase in RTs. All these results establish
four experiments we report. Older participants demonstrated a the effectiveness of the various manipulations of inhibitory con-
stronger bidirectional interference effect in Experiments 2, 3, and trol.
4. In each case, dual-task performance on either the timing or At issue is whether the different inhibition conditions exerted a
inhibition tasks was more adversely affected for the older than for systematic influence on concurrent timing performance. Condi-
the younger participants. tions necessitating greater inhibitory control should produce
Older participants did not show greater bidirectional interfer- greater disruption in timing. This fundamental trade-off pattern did
ence in Experiment 1 (the flanker task). In this instance, both older indeed occur in each experiment. CV scores showed the expected
and younger participants showed bidirectional interference be- pattern of increased timing variability corresponding to manipula-
tween concurrent timing and inhibition tasks, with the degree of tions of inhibitory control. Additionally, temporal productions in
interference similar for both age groups. The evidence for greater Experiment 3 lengthened from the weaker to the stronger inhibi-
impairment on the flanker task with age is mixed, and in fact age tion conditions. These results relate to other dual-task timing
did not exert a main effect in flanker performance in our experi- studies showing that increased distractor task demands produce
ment. The data are consistent with the idea that flanker perfor- greater disruption in timing performance (Brown, 2008). The
mance is not age sensitive. The literature on the shifting (number- present experiments fit into this basic pattern, providing further
letter), go/no-go, and antisaccade tasks shows reliable age effects, support for an attentional resource view of timing.
and our results confirmed that these tasks tended to be associated
with significantly longer RTs, and/or lower accuracy scores for
Summary and Conclusions
older participants. These are the three tasks that also produced
enhanced bidirectional interference patterns for the older partici- The research we present provides a multilayered look at the role
pants as well. of attentional resources in time perception. The data form a co-
Three of the experiments uncovered a main effect for age in herent set of findings. These findings occur at three distinct levels:
timing performance. In Experiments 2 and 3, older participants the experiments, the participants, and the tasks. First, each exper-
generated longer temporal productions overall compared with iment showed bidirectional interference between the timing and
younger participants. These results run counter to the findings inhibition tasks. The same pattern occurred in the context of a
reported in a meta-analysis of timing and aging studies reported by variety of inhibition tasks specially selected to represent different
Block, Zakay, and Hancock (1998; see also Lustig, 2003). One aspects of inhibitory control. This outcome, combined with other
possible reason for this discrepancy is that virtually all of Block et dual-task timing studies demonstrating bidirectional interference,
al.s (1998) data involved empty (i.e., control) timing conditions, points to the contribution of general-purpose executive resources

and supports a unitary view of executive function (Miyake & Bonnel, A.-M., Possama, C.-A., & Schmitt, M. (1987). Early modulation
Friedman, 2012; Miyake et al., 2000). Second, older participants of visual input: A study of attentional strategies. The Quarterly Journal
tended to produce a stronger bidirectional interference effect. of Experimental Psychology, 39, 757776. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/
Because aging is associated with executive decline, these results 14640748708401812
provide further evidence for the involvement of executive re- Braver, T. S., Barch, D. M., Keys, B. A., Carter, C. S., Cohen, J. D., Kaye,
J. A., . . . Reed, B. R. (2001). Context processing in older adults:
sources in timing. Third, weaker versions of the inhibition tasks
Evidence for a theory relating cognitive control to neurobiology in
produced weaker bidirectional interference effects and stronger healthy aging. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 746
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dynamics of resource sharing in dual-task performance. All these Braver, T. S., Satpute, A. B., Rush, B. K., Racine, C. A., & Barch, D. M.
findings support the idea of an executive cognitive system in (2005). Context processing and context maintenance in healthy aging
which timing processes are an integral component. Executive and early stage dementia of the Alzheimers type. Psychology and
operations such as updating, switching, inhibition, and timing act Aging, 20, 33 46. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0882-7974.20.1.33
in concert toward a common purpose of guiding thought and Brown, S. W. (1997). Attentional resources in timing: Interference effects
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.

action, are associated with related neural mechanisms, and are in concurrent temporal and nontemporal working memory tasks. Per-
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.

probably supported by a common pool of attentional resources. ception & Psychophysics, 59, 1118 1140. http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/
Brown, S. W. (1998). Automaticity versus timesharing in timing and
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