Aging and the Vulnerability of Speech to Dual Task Demands

Susan Kemper, Ra Lynn Schmalzried, Lesa Hoffman, Ruth Herman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Tracking a digital pursuit rotor task was used to measure dual task costs of language production by young and older adults. Tracking performance by both groups was affected by dual task demands: time on target declined and tracking error increased as dual task demands increased from the baseline condition to a moderately demanding dual task condition to a more demanding dual task condition. When dual task demands were moderate, older adults' speech rate declined but their fluency, grammatical complexity, and content were unaffected. When the dual task was more demanding, older adults' speech, like young adults' speech, became highly fragmented, ungrammatical, and incoherent. Vocabulary, working memory, processing speed, and inhibition affected vulnerability to dual task costs: vocabulary provided some protection for sentence length and grammaticality, working memory conferred some protection for grammatical complexity, and processing speed provided some protection for speech rate, propositional density, coherence, and lexical diversity. Further, vocabulary and working memory capacity provided more protection for older adults than for young adults although the protective effect of processing speed was somewhat reduced for older adults as compared to the young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-962
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Dual task demands
  • Individual differences
  • Language production
  • Speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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