External locus of control contributes to racial disparities in memory and reasoning training gains in ACTIVE

Laura B. Zahodne, Oanh Meyer, Eunhee Choi, Michael L. Thomas, Sherry L. Willis, Michael Marsiske, Alden L. Gross, George W. Rebok, Jeanine M. Parisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Racial disparities in cognitive outcomes may be partly explained by differences in locus of control. African Americans report more external locus of control than non-Hispanic Whites, and external locus of control is associated with poorer health and cognition. The aims of this study were to compare cognitive training gains between African American and non-Hispanic White participants in the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study and determine whether racial differences in training gains are mediated by locus of control. The sample comprised 2,062 (26% African American) adults aged 65 and older who participated in memory, reasoning, or speed training. Latent growth curve models evaluated predictors of 10-year cognitive trajectories separately by training group. Multiple group modeling examined associations between training gains and locus of control across racial groups. Compared to non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans evidenced less improvement in memory and reasoning performance after training. These effects were partially mediated by locus of control, controlling for age, sex, education, health, depression, testing site, and initial cognitive ability. African Americans reported more external locus of control, which was associated with smaller training gains. External locus of control also had a stronger negative association with reasoning training gain for African Americans than for Whites. No racial difference in training gain was identified for speed training. Future intervention research with African Americans should test whether explicitly targeting external locus of control leads to greater cognitive improvement following cognitive training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-572
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Cognition
  • Cognitive training
  • Locus of control
  • Older adults
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Social Psychology


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