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The Interactions Between Cognitive Control, Aging, and Emotion

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posted on 23.05.2021, 09:39 by Linda Truong
The dual mechanisms of control framework proposes that age-related declines in cognitive control are due to deficits with continuous goal maintenance (proactive control). Older adults default instead to another form of control (reactive control). In contrast to these declines, older adults demonstrate preserved emotional processing. According to the socioemotional selectivity theory, perceived time constraints related to advancing age results in emotional regulation goals in which older adults prioritize positive well-being or mood. To achieve this, they devote more cognitive resources and pay greater attention to positive versus negative information (“positivity effects”) than younger adults. Research on the interactions between cognitive control and emotion is increasing but work focused on the interactions in older adults is limited. Thus, it is unknown how older adults' emotional goals may influence their goal maintenance deficits. This study manipulated mood and emotional face stimuli to examine whether these factors affect age differences in cognitive control between younger (ages 18-30) and older adults (ages 65+). Experiment 1 induced neutral or negative moods prior to a cognitive control task (the standard letter AX-CPT task). Results indicated typical patterns of proactive control in younger adults and reactive control in older adults that did not vary substantially by mood. Experiment 2 examined the effects of neutral, negative, and positive mood inductions on a less cognitively demanding version of the AX-CPT (with face cues as contextual information). Results showed evidence of enhanced proactive control in older adults that was comparable to that of younger adults across all mood conditions, although this was limited to response time data. Additionally, there was evidence of small mood effects on cognitive control. Finally, Experiment 3 examined the effect of positive, negative, and neutral contextual information (face cues) on older adults' cognitive control performance using a different variant of the AX-CPT (face AX-CPT). Results indicated strong engagement in reactive control that did not vary by the emotionality of the contextual information. Together, the results of this study suggest that older adults’ proactive control patterns are affected by the task demands of the AX-CPT, but there is less evidence of mood or emotional stimuli effects.





Doctor of Philosophy



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Lixia Yang