Age differences in the strategic allocation of visual attention.
The allocation of visual spatial attention was investigated in two groups of adults, younger (n = 24; M = 19 yrs) and older (n = 24; M = 68 yrs). Two sequential target displays were presented on a computer screen. If a target letter appeared in Display 1, then observers were to identify a target letter in Display 2. Based on accuracy of Display 1 target detection, the older adults had a more restricted range of visual processing than the younger adults. Based on reaction times for Display 2 target identification, older adults appeared to use a spotlight (serial) scanning mechanism, whereas younger adults appeared to use an activity-distribution (parallel) mechanism. Results are consistent with age-related cognitive slowing, but also suggest a difference in strategy according to the availability of visual information.
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