Abstract

In the fields of both cognitive development and cognitive aging, similar patterns of performance on selective attention tasks have been found between children and older adults. Presently, there exist few studies of selective attention across the lifespan. A 1995 study by Shapiro, Shapiro, Cointin, and Forbes addressed this absence through investigating search performance in a cross-sectional, life-span study. In the Shapiro et al. study, a compelling pattern of performance was found: in conjunction conditions, which require serial searches, older adults' performance differed significantly from the younger adults' performance across increasing display size only in target absent trials. The present study attempted to determine whether such differences arose from perceptual-motor (physiological) slowing. Four older adults (mean age = 68.25 years) and seven undergraduates (mean age = 19.57 years) volunteered. Participants responded to the presence or absence of targets within conjunction arrays of varying field and display sizes. Both reaction times (RTs) and proportion correct were measured. Overall, it was found that RTs were longest for both older and younger adults when field size and display size were large, and in target-absent trials. These results provide no support for a perceptual-motor explanation of Shapiro et al.'s findings. An alternative explanation, one of cognitive change, is discussed.

Disciplines

Psychology

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Psychology Commons

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