Background This study examined the efficacy of coping and relaxation interventions on learning technology-driven tasks in younger and older adults. Both interventions were assumed to reduce levels of stress, particularly in older adults and to improve performance on a challenging task involving new technology relative to a control task. Moreover, older adults were expected to benefit relatively more from these interventions. Method 119 Younger and 108 older adults participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: relaxation only, coping only, both relaxation and coping, and a control condition. They performed two tasks with a novel technology, either PDA or webcam device on day 1 and two tasks with the other device on day 2. The order of tasks and devices was counterbalanced. Physiological and subjective stress levels were assessed at different points in time: before, during, and after the task. Performance was measured as the percentage of steps completed during a task and the amount of help needed from the experimenter during the task. Results and discussion The results indicated that particularly the coping intervention helped to reduce physiological and subjective indicators of stress. Benefits for performance occurred for the interventions involving relaxation for some of the tasks. Older adults needed less help with webcam tasks in the combined coping/relaxation intervention than younger adults. These findings provide insight into techniques that optimize learning conditions for complex tasks involving new technology.

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Department of Psychology

Dijkstra, K, Charness, N, Yordon, R, & Price, J. (2015). The role of coping, relaxation, and age on stress and task performance with new technology. Gerontechnology, 13(4), 388–395. doi:10.4017/gt.2015.