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Aging and performance on an everyday-based visual search task

Potter, L.M. and Grealy, Madeleine and Elliott, Mark and Andres, Pilar (2012) Aging and performance on an everyday-based visual search task. Acta Psychologica, 140 (3). pp. 208-217. ISSN 0001-6918

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Abstract

Research on aging and visual search often requires older people to search computer screens for target letters or numbers. The aim of this experiment was to investigate age-related differences using an everyday-based visual search task in a large participant sample (n = 261) aged 20–88 years. Our results show that: (1) old–old adults have more difficulty with triple conjunction searches with one highly distinctive feature compared to young–old and younger adults; (2) age-related declines in conjunction searches emerge in middle age then progress throughout older age; (3) age-related declines are evident in feature searches on target absent trials, as older people seem to exhaustively and serially search the whole display to determine a target's absence. Together, these findings suggest that declines emerge in middle age then progress throughout older age in feature integration, guided search, perceptual grouping and/or spreading suppression processes. Discussed are implications for enhancing everyday functioning throughout adulthood.