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Nora D. Gayzur, Alyson Saville, Linda K. Langley; Aging and inhibitory tagging during visual search. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):532. doi: 10.1167/6.6.532.
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The purpose of this study was to examine the role of inhibition in age-related changes in visual search. Visual search involves finding goal-relevant target objects within a cluttered array of distracting items. Inhibitory deficit theory proposes that visual search performance declines with age due to reduced ability to inhibit attention to distracting information. Using Klein's (1988) inhibitory tagging paradigm, 42 younger adults (ages 18–35 yrs) and 42 older adults (ages 60–80 yrs) completed both a visual search and probe detection task. Probes were presented within the search array at the location of a distractor (on probe) or at an empty location (off probe). We found that inhibition was reflected in slower responses to on probes than to off probes, especially following an inefficient search task (find an O among Q's); on-off probe differences were reduced following an efficient search task (find a Q among O's). Although older adults showed poorer search performance than young adults, particularly during inefficient search, contrary to predictions, they showed the same ability to inhibit re-inspection of distractors. Thus, we found no evidence of an age-related inhibitory deficit associated with visual search performance.
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