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Intra-Individual Variability from a Lifespan Perspective: A Comparison of Latency and Accuracy Measures

Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability (CIGEV), University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES–Overcoming Vulnerability, Life Course Perspectives, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Cognitive Aging Lab, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Department of General Psychology, University of Padova, 35122 Padova, Italy
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Swiss Distance Learning University, 3900 Brig, Switzerland
Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 December 2017 / Revised: 14 February 2018 / Accepted: 9 March 2018 / Published: 14 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Development and Individual Variability)
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Within-task variability across trials (intra-individual variability (IIV)) has been mainly studied using latency measures but rarely with accuracy measures. The aim of the Geneva Variability Study was to examine IIV in both latency and accuracy measures of cognitive performance across the lifespan, administering the same tasks to children, younger adults, and older adults. Six processing speed tasks (Response Time (RT) tasks, 8 conditions) and two working memory tasks scored in terms of the number of correct responses (Working Memory (WM)—verbal and visuo-spatial, 6 conditions), as well as control tasks, were administered to over 500 individuals distributed across the three age periods. The main questions were whether age differences in IIV would vary throughout the lifespan according (i) to the type of measure used (RTs vs. accuracy); and (ii) to task complexity. The objective of this paper was to present the general experimental design and to provide an essentially descriptive picture of the results. For all experimental tasks, IIV was estimated using intra-individual standard deviation (iSDr), controlling for the individual level (mean) of performance and for potential practice effects. As concerns RTs, and in conformity with a majority of the literature, younger adults were less variable than both children and older adults, and the young children were often the most variable. In contrast, IIV in the WM accuracy scores pointed to different age trends—age effects were either not observed or, when found, they indicated that younger adults were the more variable group. Overall, the findings suggest that IIV provides complementary information to that based on a mean performance, and that the relation of IIV to cognitive development depends on the type of measure used. View Full-Text
Keywords: intra-individual variability; working memory; life-span; reaction time intra-individual variability; working memory; life-span; reaction time
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Fagot, D.; Mella, N.; Borella, E.; Ghisletta, P.; Lecerf, T.; De Ribaupierre, A. Intra-Individual Variability from a Lifespan Perspective: A Comparison of Latency and Accuracy Measures. J. Intell. 2018, 6, 16.

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