Aging and List-Wide Modulations of Strategy Execution:A Study in Arithmetic

  • Hinault Thomas
  • Lemaire Patrick


Background/Study Context: This study aimed at further our understanding of the cognitive processes involved during strategy execution, and how the processes involved change with age. More specifically, the main goal was to investigate whether poorer-strategy effects (i.e., poorer performance when a cued strategy is not the best) and sequential modulations of poorer-strategy effects (i.e., decreased poorer-strategy effects on current problems following poorer-strategy problems compared with after better-strategy problems) are influenced by proportions of poorer-strategy problems.Methods: We used a computational estimation task (i.e., providing approximate products to two-digit multiplication problems such as 38 x 74) with problems sets including 75%, 50%, or 25% of poorer-strategy problems (i.e., participants have to estimate products with another strategy than the better strategy). The remaining problems were cued with the better strategy. Age-related differences were also investigated.Results: We found that proportions of poorer-strategy problems influenced sequential modulations of poorer-strategy effects. Indeed, sequential modulations of poorer-strategy effects were larger when proportions of poorer-strategy problems were equal than unequal. Moreover, proportion effects were different for young and older adults, as older adults benefited more from low proportions of poorer-strategy problems compared with young adults.Conclusion: These findings have important implications regarding cognitive control mechanisms underlying both list-wide and trial-to-trial modulations of strategy execution, and how these processes change during aging.