Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Deanna Barch


Due to the fact that executive control abilities are necessary for successful execution of many cognitive and real-world tasks, interest has arisen in determining how these abilities can be improved. A previous study demonstrated that both practice and strategy training improved performance in older adults on an executive control task requiring goal maintenance abilities: Paxton et al., 2006), but no previous research has investigated the amount of exposure to this executive control task during training. Thus, questions remained about whether amount of exposure: e.g., extended experience with one task or limited experience with multiple tasks) or type of intervention: e.g., training or practice) improve performance through different cognitive mechanisms. In order to address these questions, this dissertation study sought to determine whether practice and training interventions varying in amount of exposure to the trained task lead to improvement on the tasks trained and/or untrained transfer tasks. Results demonstrated that, regardless of intervention condition, older adult participants become more accurate and efficient on the training task. The strategy training intervention was only found to improve performance on the training task when analyses were conducted to evaluate whether two primary trial types changed in divergent directions. The lack of significant differences between training and practice interventions in raw scores on the training task replicates our previous study: Paxton et. al, 2006). The training and practice interventions did not produce significantly different results for the near transfer tasks, and therefore, conclusions could not be drawn about whether training and practice improve performance using different cognitive mechanisms. Also, compared with interventions involving limited experience with multiple goal maintenance tasks, interventions involving greater exposure to one goal maintenance task only led to a significant improvement in performance on the near transfer task when analyses were conducted to evaluate whether two primary trial types changed in divergent directions, and may have been influenced by pretest differences across training conditions. No differences were found among the interventions in terms of facilitation of far transfer.


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