Sensitivity of Executive Functions (Planning and Goal Management) to Normal Aging: Validating a New Computerised Test Against a Traditional Measure
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This study tested whether normal aging affects the planning and goal management components of executive function. The study tested these abilities using the Zoo Map and Modified Six Elements (6E) tests from the Behavioural Assessment of Dysexecutive Syndrome (BADS), in addition to a newly designed computerised test of planning and goal management ability. The study also aimed to validate the new test against the BADS. Participants were 30 older adults with a mean age of 68.7 years and 30 younger adults with a mean age of 21.3 years. MANOVAs mainly showed an age effect on planning and goal management abilities, indicated by older adults’ higher error rates and longer response times on the tasks. These results suggest an effect of healthy aging on some aspects of planning and goal management. Correlational analysis of the BADS and the computerised test showed some positive correlations between planning, suggesting equivalence of measures. However, no correlations were found for goal management. Possible reasons for the pattern of results are considered, including computer confidence and computer usage frequency, which was found to be significantly lower for older adults. Results are discussed with relation to outstanding conceptual issues in the field of executive function assessment.