Synchrony effects in cognition: The costs and a benefit

Abstract

The present study investigated whether younger and older adults’ ability to inhibit distractors in a problem-solving task is affected by synchrony, or the match between circadian arousal periods and time of testing. Consistent with an inhibitory-deficit explanation of synchrony effects, both age groups showed heightened susceptibility to distraction at off-peak relative to peak times. In most instances, increased sensitivity to distraction disrupted problem-solving performance; however, when distracting material was related to task goals, individuals actually benefited from reduced inhibitory efficiency. The present data are also consistent with other research in showing that access to and production of well-learned or familiar responses are not vulnerable to synchrony effects.

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Correspondence to Cynthia P. May.

Additional information

This work was funded by grants from the National Institute on Aging (AG0 4306 and AG1 2753) and by a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation. I thank Lynn Hasher for her invaluable input throughout this project, especially for her helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. I am also grateful to Mary Peterson and Karen Li for their suggestions on this manuscript. Finally, I extend thanks to Michael Szarek and Dina Dicenso for their assistance at various stages of the project.

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May, C.P. Synchrony effects in cognition: The costs and a benefit. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 6, 142–147 (1999). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03210822

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Keywords

  • Prospective Memory
  • Word Problem
  • Negative Priming
  • Synchrony Effect
  • Benefit Effect