Changes in the spatial spread of attention with ageing

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Lawrence, Rebecca K
Edwards, Mark
Goodhew, Stephanie C
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2018
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Abstract

Spatial attention is a necessary cognitive process, allowing for the direction of limited capacity resources to varying locations in the visual field for improved visual processing. Thus, understanding how ageing influences these processes is vital. The current study explored the relationship between the spatial spread of attention and healthy ageing using an inhibition of return task to tap visual attention processing. This task allowed us to measure the spatial distribution of inhibition, and thus acted as a marker for attentional spread. Past research has indicated minimal age differences in inhibitory spread. However, these studies used placeholder stimuli, which may have restricted the range over which age differences could be reliably measured. To address this, in Experiment One, we measured the relationship between the spatial spread of inhibition and healthy ageing using a method which did not employ placeholders. In contrast to past research, an age difference in inhibitory spread was observed, where in comparison to younger adults, older adults exhibited a relatively restricted spread of attention. Experiment Two then confirmed these findings, by directly comparing inhibitory spread for placeholder present and placeholder absent conditions, across younger and older adults. Again, it was found that age differences in inhibitory spread emerged, but only in the placeholder absent condition. Possible reasons for the observed age differences in attention are discussed.

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Acta Psychologica

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188

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Psychology

Cognitive and computational psychology

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Lawrence, RK; Edwards, M; Goodhew, SC, Changes in the spatial spread of attention with ageing, Acta Psychologica, 2018, 188, pp. 188-199

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