Cognitive Ageing: The Effects of Disruption on Multitasking Abilities in Healthy Adults
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The ability to multitask is an incredibly important aspect of everyday life and it is thought that the cognitive processes used for multitasking are mediated by the frontal lobes (Stuss & Alexander, 2000). Patients with frontal lobe damage have been shown to be impaired in their ability to multitask, despite having normal IQ’s. It is thought that as human adult’s age, the frontal lobes deteriorate, so there is a possibility that that multitasking skills will also be impaired in older adults. While performing daily tasks we often experience disruptions such as having to answer the phone, send a text message or answer the door. This study investigated the effects of disruption on multitasking abilities in younger and older adults using the cooking breakfast task originally developed by Craik and Bialystok (2006). With creating a non-computerised version of the task, participants were required to ‘cook’ foods by starting and stopping timers next to cardboard imitations of each food. The task was carried out with two versions, one with no disruption and the other with a disruption; participants were required to halt cooking and take part in a silly sentences task (Baddeley, Logie, Nimmo-Smith & Brereton, 1985). Two age groups (18-24 and 60-85) were tested. There was a significant difference between multitasking performance for younger and older adults, but no significant effects of disruption were found. This finding suggests that older adults are more impaired in multitasking abilities compared to younger adults. Further implications for this theory and the effects of disruptions on multitasking are discussed.