Adult age differences in the effects of sentence context and stimulus degradation during visual word recognition.
I investigated adult age differences in the efficiency of feature-extraction processes during visual word recognition. Participants were 24 young adults (M age = 21.0 years) and 24 older adults (M age = 66.5 years). On each trial, subjects made a word/nonword discrimination (i.e., lexical decision) regarding a target letter-string that was presented as the final item of a sentence context. The target was presented either intact or degraded visually (by the presence of asterisks between adjacent letters). Age differences in lexical decisions speed were greater for degraded targets than for intact targets, suggesting an age-related slowing in the extraction of feature-level information. For degraded word targets, however, the amount of performance benefit provided by the sentence context was greater for older adults than for young adults. It thus appears that an age-related deficiency at an early stage of word recognition is accompanied by an increased contribution from semantic context.
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