Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Previous task-switching research has demonstrated how prior experience can impact subsequent task-switching performance (i.e., reaction times, task choice) through associative retrieval, the creation and retrieval of event files. Event files, episodic traces which contain information about the stimulus, prior context, and action performed, can be implicitly retrieved when re-encountering information from the prior experience (e.g., stimulus repetition). The effect of associative retrieval on task-switching performance has been examined in younger adults, but few studies have investigated this effect in older adults. This gap is especially glaring in the voluntary task-switching literature where only one study to date has explored how exogenous influences such as stimulus repetition may or may not impact task choice in older adults (Butler & Weywadt, 2013). Experiment 1 sought to expand upon findings from Arrington et al. (2010) by examining the impact of re-encountering specific word stimuli on later voluntary task-switching performance. Both younger and older adults’ task-switching performance were influenced by both initial and most recent experience, suggesting older adults can create event files in task-switching contexts, can retrieve those event files in later circumstances, and can later be influenced by the retrieval of those event files, similar to younger adults. Experiment 2 aimed to investigate how creating an association between screen location and specific tasks would impact later associative retrieval of event files when word stimuli appeared in those previously informative screen locations. Unlike Experiment 1, neither younger nor older adults’ task-switching performance were impacted by the prior location-task association. Taken together with the results from Experiment 1, this finding suggests the creation or associative retrieval of event files may not occur in all contexts for both younger and older adults.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Julie M. Bugg

Committee Members

David Balota, Todd Braver, Richard Abrams, Jason Hassenstab,