The effects of adult ageing and culture on the tower of London task

Louise H Phillips* (Corresponding Author), Louisa Lawrie, Alexandre Schaefer, Cher Yi Tan, Min Hooi Yong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Planning ability is important in everyday functioning, and a key measure to assess the preparation and execution of plans is the Tower of London (ToL) task. Previous studies indicate that older adults are often less accurate than the young on the ToL and that there may be cultural differences in performance on the task. However, potential interactions between age and culture have not previously been explored. In the current study we examined the effects of age on ToL performance in an Asian culture (Malaysia) and a Western culture (British) (n = 191). We also explored whether working memory, age, education, and socioeconomic status explained variance in ToL performance across these two cultures. Results indicated that age effects on ToL performance were greater in the Malaysian sample. Subsequent moderated mediation analysis revealed differences between the two cultures (British vs Malaysians), in that the age-related variance in ToL accuracy was accounted for by WM capacity at low and medium education levels only in the Malaysian sample. Demographic variables could not explain additional variance in ToL speed or accuracy. These results may reflect cultural differences in the familiarity and cognitive load of carrying out complex planning tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number631458
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by Newton Fund Institutional Links grant ID: 331745333, under Newton-Ungku Omar Fund partnership to LP. The grant is funded by the United Kingdom Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and delivered by the British Council. For further information, please visit

Data Availability Statement
The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article/supplementary material, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author/s.


  • ageing
  • Asian
  • culture
  • planning
  • Western
  • working memory


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