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Mackenzie A. Sunday, Woo-Yeol Lee, Isabel Gauthier; Age-related differential item functioning in tests of face and car recognition ability. Journal of Vision 2018;18(1):2. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.1.2.
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The presence of differential item functioning (DIF) in a test suggests bias that could disadvantage members of a certain group. Previous work with tests of visual learning abilities found significant DIF related to age groups in a car test (Lee, Cho, McGugin, Van Gulick, & Gauthier, 2015), but not in a face test (Cho et al., 2015). The presence of age DIF is a threat to the validity of the test even for studies where aging is not of interest. Here, we assessed whether this pattern of age DIF for cars and not faces would also apply to new tests targeting the same abilities with a new matching task that uses two studied items per trial. We found evidence for DIF in matching tests for faces and for cars, though with encouragingly small effect sizes. Even though the age DIF was small enough at the test level to be acceptable for most uses, we also asked whether the specific format of our matching tasks may induce some age-related DIF regardless of domain. We decomposed the face matching task into its components, and using new data from subjects performing these simpler tasks, found evidence that the age DIF was driven by the similarity of the two faces presented at study on each trial. Overall, our results suggest that using a matching format, especially for cars, reduces age-related DIF, and that a simpler matching task with only one study item per trial could reduce age DIF further.
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