Does initial performance variability predict dual-task optimization with practice in younger and older adults?

Tilo Strobach, Denis Gerstorf, François Maquestiaux, Torsten Schubert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background/Study Context: The variability associated with reaction time (RT) is sometimes considered as a proxy for inefficient neural processing, particularly in old age and complex situations relying upon executive control functions. Here, it is examined whether the amount of variability exhibited early in practice can predict the amount of improvement with later practice in dual-task performance, and whether the predictive power of variability varies between younger and older adults.

Methods: To investigate the relationship between variability and practice-related improvement, RT mean and variability data are used, obtained from an experiment in which younger and older adults performed two tasks in single-task and dual-task conditions across seven practice sessions. These RT and variability data were related to the single-task and dual-task practice benefits. These benefits were computed as follows: dual-task/single-task RTs at the beginning of practice minus dual-task/single-task RTs at the end of practice.

Results: In both age groups, dual-task processing was speeded up with practice and variability associated with the means was reduced. Most important, independent of mean RTs, variability allowed predicting dual-task practice benefit in both age groups under specific conditions.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that the relationship between performance variability and executive control functions under some specific conditions. Implications of these results for models of practiced dual tasks are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-88
Number of pages32
JournalExperimental Aging Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aging
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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