Do working-memory executive components mediate the effects of age on strategy selection or on strategy execution? Insights from arithmetic problem solving


  • Duverne Sandrine
  • Lemaire Patrick
  • Vandierendonck Andre

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Younger and older adults performed an inequality verification task (7+6 < 15, Yes/No?) in a control condition and in a dual-task condition where they simultaneously performed an executive-component task. Arithmetic-problem characteristics were manipulated in order to test strategy selection (i.e., choice of appropriate strategies in order to improve performance) and strategy execution (i.e., performance of the cognitive processes involved in each strategy). Results revealed that strategy selection changes with age: Older adults mainly selected one type of strategies in contrast to younger adults who used several types of strategies. These age-related changes were similar in the control and dual-task conditions. Strategy execution also changed with age, as shown by larger age-related differences on hardest problems. These age-related changes were larger in the dual-task condition, compared to the control condition. This impact of executive components as mediator of age-related changes depended on general age-related slowing. We discuss these findings in order to further understand the effects of age on arithmetic performance.

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