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Mark Neider, Arthur Kramer; Guiding Attention in Realistic Scenes: Older Adults Capitalize on Context During Visual Search. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):741. doi: 10.1167/12.9.741.
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Younger adults utilize known associations between objects and scenes to guide attentional deployment during visual search (e.g., Biederman, Mezzanotte, & Rabinowitz, 1973; Brockmole & Henderson, 2006a; Neider & Zelinsky, 2006b). While much has been learned about the age-related declines associated with visual search for perceptual features (e.g., Folk & Lincourt, 1996; Humprey & Kramer, 1997; Whiting et al., 2005), little is known regarding the ability of older adults to use higher level scene information to guide search processes. On the one hand, it is possible that older adults might be able to capitalize on object-scene associations in order to guide attention more efficiently and compensate for declines in the perceptual processes associated with search. In this case, object-scene information might be more useful for older adults than it is for younger adults. On the other hand, older adults have been shown to experience declines in explicit memory processes (Old & Naveh-Benjamin, 2008). Such impairment could hinder their ability to utilize well-learned object-scene associations to guide search. To differentiate between these possibilities, in two experiments we had younger and older adults search pseudo-realistic scenes for targets with strong or no spatial associations (see Neider & Zelinsky, 2006b, for details of the paradigm). Both younger and older adults exhibited reaction time benefits when searching for a target that was associated with a specific scene region. Eye movement analyses revealed that all observers dedicated most of their time to scanning target-consistent display regions and that guidance to these regions was often evident on the initial saccade of a trial. However, both the benefits and costs associated with the presence of target spatial constraints were larger for older adults, suggesting that they relied more heavily than younger adults on object-location associations to guide search processes towards the target.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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