Aging and distraction by highly familiar stimuli during visual search
P. Rabbitt's (1965, 1968) theory regarding age-related changes in cognition proposes that aging is accompanied by a decreased ability to ignore irrelevant information (perceptual noise). The present experiment examined age differences in the extent to which highly familiar stimuli used as perceptual noise could disrupt visual search performance. On Days 1-4, 10 Ss aged 19-27 yrs and 10 Ss aged 63-77 yrs performed a search task with specific, unchanging sets of target and nontarget stimuli (letters). Performance on a subsequent search task (Day 5) was disrupted when these familiar stimuli appeared as noise items in the displays, as compared with trials on which only new, unpracticed stimuli were used. The magnitude of the distraction associated with the familiar stimuli on Day 5 was equivalent for the 2 age groups. However, age differences in Day 5 search performance increased as more items in the simulus display required inspection. Age differences were thus influenced more by the requirement to attend to relevant information than by distraction from irrelevant information. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved). © 1983 American Psychological Association.
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