The role of encoding processes in temporary visual feature binding in younger and older adults

Brown, Louise and Niven, Elaine and Logie, Robert H. and Allen, Richard J. (2014) The role of encoding processes in temporary visual feature binding in younger and older adults. In: Seventh European Working Memory Symposium (EWOMS), 2014-09-02 - 2014-09-04. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This project was aimed at establishing the extent to which an age-related deficit exists for associating surface visual features (colours and shapes) in working memory, and to determine the potential role of encoding processes in any deficits observed. Despite an overall age-related decline in visual working memory performance, and supporting previous conclusions in the literature, two of the three experiments showed that healthy older adults are able to create and maintain temporary surface visual feature bindings. Importantly, these experiments also showed that extending the encoding time, presenting the memory array sequentially rather than simultaneously, and presenting to-be-ignored stimuli during encoding, did not bring about any binding deficits in older compared with younger adults. Finally, the research demonstrated theoretically interesting limitations in how older adults encode information in visual working memory. Specifically, when testing memory for items that appeared in the middle of the to-be-remembered array of three visual objects, older adults performed at chance level. In contrast, the first and last items were much less affected by ageing. Furthermore, the research highlighted that older adults are less able than younger adults to inhibit distracting items. These latter findings may indicate age-related deficits in attentional and/or storage capacity.