Executive attentional resources in timing: Effects of inhibitory control and cognitive aging

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance


time perception, attention, executive function, cognitive aging


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 temporal production. The executive tasks, representing different types of inhibitory control, were the 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 bidirectional 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.


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