Ecological Relevance Determines Task Priority in Older Adults' Multitasking

Mihalis Doumas, Ralf Th. Krampe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
267 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: Multitasking is a challenging aspect of human behavior, especially if the concurrently performed tasks are different in nature. Several studies demonstrated pronounced performance decrements (dual-task costs) in older adults for combinations of cognitive and motor tasks. However, patterns of costs among component tasks differed across studies and reasons for participants' resource allocation strategies remained elusive.
Method:We investigated young and older adults' multitasking of a working memory task and two sensorimotor tasks, one with low (finger force control) and one with high ecological relevance (postural control). The tasks were performed in single-, dual-, and triple-task contexts.
Results: Working memory accuracy was reduced in dual-task contexts with either sensorimotor task and deteriorated further under triple-task conditions. Postural and force performance deteriorated with age and task difficulty in dual-task contexts. However, in the triple-task context with its maximum resource demands, older adults prioritized postural control
over both force control and memory.
Discussion: Our results identify ecological relevance as the key factor in older adults’ multitasking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-385
Number of pages9
JournalJournals of Gerontology. Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date22 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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