Slowness and Age: Speed-Accuracy Mechanisms

Glen A. Smith, Neil Brewer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    121 Citations (Scopus)


    Young and older adults' mechanisms of trial-by-trial control of accuracy and choice reaction times (RTs) were compared in 2,000 trials. With equal mean error rates, the older group's correct and error RT were longer, and their within-subject distribution was a linear function of the younger group's. Conditional accuracy functions (CAFs) were very similar in location and shape, with both groups achieving 95% accuracy at the same RT. Combining RT distributions with CAFs showed that the older group did not track their limits as often as the younger group, and they were more careful, having fewer very fast (near random) responses, more average speed responses in long error-free runs, and more slowing following an error. All participants were faster before an error and slower immediately after, but the older participants had coarser RT control. To compensate for this, the older participants produced slower responding to avoid the very fast, high-error part of the CAF.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)238-247
    Number of pages10
    JournalPsychology and Aging
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1995


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