The rate at which people process information appears to influence many aspects of cognition across the lifespan. However, many commonly accepted measures of ‘processing speed’ may require goal maintenance, manipulation of information in working memory, and decision-making, blurring the distinction between processing speed and executive control and resulting in overestimation of processing speed contributions to cognition. This concern may apply particularly to studies of developmental change, as even seemingly simple processing speed measures may require executive processes to keep children and older adults on task. We report two new studies and a re-analysis of a published study, testing predictions about how different processing speed measures influence conclusions about executive control across the lifespan. We find that the choice of processing speed measure affects the relationship observed between processing speed and executive control, in a manner that changes with age, and that choice of processing speed measure affects conclusions about development and the relationship among executive control measures. Implications for understanding processing speed, executive control, and their development are discussed.