Adult age differences in strategic and dynamic components of focusing visual attention
Changes in tile width of a focally attended area were assessed by analysis of changes in reaction time associated with response-incompatible nontarget letters (flankers). In two experiments, the focus of attention widened as an increasing function of stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). In contrast to the predictions of generalized slowing and inhibition-deficit models, this dynamic change in attention was comparable for young and older adults in both experiments. Evidence accumulation outside the focus of attention was greater for young adults than for older adults when target location varied (Experiment 2). This latter effect, however, was strategic (i.e., independent of SOA). Analyses of the task complexity functions (Brinley plots) indicated a greater contribution of generalized slowing when target location was constant (Experiment 1) than when location varied (Experiment 2).
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