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Jutta Billino, Elena Hitzel, Constanze Hesse; Malleability of speed accuracy trade-offs across the adult lifespan. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):774. doi: 10.1167/18.10.774.
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For a variety of tasks it has been shown that speed-accuracy trade-offs (SAT) shift towards slower speed and higher accuracy with increasing age. However, it has remained controversial whether this shift indicates global slowing based on general neural deficiencies or rather a strategic choice because senior adults prefer to avoid mistakes and thus sacrifice speed voluntarily. We aimed to investigate the malleability of the SAT across the adult lifespan. We applied a manual pointing task for measuring SATs. In a baseline condition, movements were instructed with only moderate speed and accuracy demands. In contrast, in a stress condition strong emphasis was put on speed and challenging timeout criteria were set that were derived for each individual from their baseline performance. In addition, we gave detailed accuracy feedback after each trial. We tested forty-four participants covering an adult age range from 21 to 69 years. As expected, we found an age-related slowing of pointing movements. We determined SATs in baseline and stress conditions using the respective slopes of the functions relating movement times and accuracy. SATs differed significantly between both conditions, indicating an accelerated trading of accuracy for speed in the stress condition. Furthermore, regression analyses revealed that age predicted SATs in the baseline condition. In line with previous findings, we observed that increasing age was linked to a reluctance to adopt fast, but imprecise pointing movements under moderate speed-accuracy requirements. In contrast, SATs in the stress condition were not predicted by age. Our findings suggest that age-related differences in SATs can be attenuated by explicit instructions that emphasise speed and are not exclusively defined by processing resources.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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