Skip to main content

Differential effects of aging on executive and automatic inhibition

Andres, Pilar; Andrés, Pilar; Guerrini, Chiara; Phillips, Louise H.; Perfect, Timothy J.


Pilar Andres

Pilar Andrés

Louise H. Phillips

Timothy J. Perfect


One of the major accounts of cognitive aging states that age effects are related to a deficiency of inhibitory mechanisms (Hasher & Zacks, 1988). Given that inhibition has traditionally been associated with the frontal cortex, and that the frontal cortex deteriorates early with age (Raz, 2000), this is consistent with the frontal hypothesis of aging (West, 1996). However, not all inhibitory processes require executive control, and so they are not all equally supported by the frontal cortex. As a consequence, one would expect dissociations between inhibitory tasks in the sense of a greater susceptibility of executive/frontal inhibition to aging. Based on Nigg's (2000) working inhibition taxonomy, we tested this hypothesis by combining inhibitory paradigms with different levels of executive control within the same participants. The results showed that age affects Stroop interference but not negative priming (Experiment 1) and stop signal responsiveness but not negative priming (Experiment 2). These findings suggest that tasks with a high executive (or effortful) inhibitory control are more sensitive to aging than tasks with a lower executive (more automatic) inhibitory control. The results are discussed in relation to the inhibitory and frontal accounts of aging.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2008
Print ISSN 8756-5641
Electronic ISSN 1532-6942
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 101-123
APA6 Citation Andrés, P., Guerrini, C., Phillips, L. H., & Perfect, T. J. (2008). Differential effects of aging on executive and automatic inhibition. Developmental Neuropsychology, 33(2), (101-123). doi:10.1080/87565640701884212. ISSN 8756-5641
Keywords Developmental and Educational Psychology; Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
Publisher URL