The role of shifting updating and inhibition in prospective memory performance in young and older adults

Katharina Schnitzspahn* (Corresponding Author), Christoph Stahl, Melanie Zeintl, Christoph Kaller, Matthias Kliegel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Prospective memory performance shows a decline in late adulthood. The present article examines the role of 3 main executive function facets (i.e., shifting, updating, and inhibition) as possible developmental mechanisms associated with these age effects. One hundred seventy-five young and 110 older adults performed a battery of cognitive tests including measures of prospective memory, shifting, updating, inhibition, working memory, and speed. Age effects were confirmed in prospective memory and also obtained in shifting, updating, and inhibition. Yet, facets of executive control differently predicted prospective memory performance: While inhibition and shifting were strong predictors of prospective memory performance and also explained age differences in prospective memory, updating was not related to prospective memory performance across adulthood. Furthermore, considering executive function measures increased the amount of explained variance in prospective remembering and reduced the influence of speed. Working memory was not revealed to serve as a significant predictor of prospective memory performance in the present study. These findings clarify the role of different facets of controlled attention on age effects in prospective memory and bear important conceptual implications: Results suggest that some but not all facets of executive functioning are important developmental mechanisms of prospective memory across adulthood beyond working memory and speed. Specifically, inhibition and shifting appear to be essential aspects of cognitive control involved in age-related prospective memory performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1544-1553
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


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