Implicit motivation improves executive functions of older adults

Shira Cohen-Zimerman*, Ran R. Hassin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


It is widely accepted that while controlled processes (e.g., working memory and executive functions) decline with age, implicit (automatic) processes are not affected by age. In this paper we challenge this view by arguing that high-level automatic processes (e.g., recruiting motivation) decline with age, and that this decline plays an unappreciated role in cognitive aging. Specifically, we hypothesized that due to their decline, automatic motivational processes are less likely to be spontaneously activated in old age; thus, implicit external activation of them should have stronger effects on older (vs. younger) adults. In two experiments we used different methods of implicitly activating motivation, and measured executive functions of younger and older adults using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. In both experiments, implicit modulation of motivation resulted in improved executive functioning for older adults. The framework we propose is general and offers a new look at various aspects of cognitive aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Age differences
  • Cognitive aging
  • Executive functions
  • Motivation
  • Task engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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