Most psychological theories predict associations among processes that transpire within individuals. However, these theories are often tested by examining relationships at the between-persons (BP) rather than the within-persons (WP) level. The authors examin ed the WP and BP relationships between daily stress and daily variability in cognitive performance. Daily stress and cognitive performance were assessed on 6 occasions in 108 older adults and 68 young adults. WP variability in stress predicted WP variability in response times (RTs) on a 2-back working memory task in both younger and older adults. That is, RTs were slower on high-stress days compared with low-stress days. There was evidence of an amplified WP stress effect in the older adults on a serial attention task. There was no evidence of stress effects on simple versions of these tasks that placed minimal demands on working memory. These results are consistent with theories that postulate that stress-related cognitive interference competes for attentional resources.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Geriatrics and Gerontology