September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Visual working memory for objects in scenes in younger and older adults: Insights from pupillometry
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Giorgia D'Innocenzo
    Faculdade de Psicologia, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Anastasiia Mikhailova
    Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Moreno I. Coco
    Faculdade de Psicologia, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
    School of Psychology, The University of East London, London, UK
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This research was supported by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia under Grant (PTDC/PSI-ESP/30958/2017) and the Leverhulme Trust under Grant (ECF-014-205) awarded to MIC
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2592. doi:
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      Giorgia D'Innocenzo, Anastasiia Mikhailova, Moreno I. Coco; Visual working memory for objects in scenes in younger and older adults: Insights from pupillometry. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2592.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

  • Supplements

Pupillary responses are known to differentiate younger and older adults (e.g., senile miosis) and have been recently linked to successful recognition in memory tasks. However, it is yet to be understood whether age-related changes in pupil dilation would show differential patterns during recognition memory tasks. In the present change-detection study, younger and healthy older adults viewed 192 original and modified versions of indoor photographs to determine whether a change had (or not) occurred with equal probability (i.e., 50% of the trials). In the modified version of the image, a change could be made to the identity of one of the objects in the scene (e.g., a toothbrush became a torchlight), to its location (e.g., a toothbrush moved from left to right), or to both features (e.g., a toothbrush moved and became a torchlight). On normalised (z-scored) pupil dilation collected during the recognition phase while the changed target object was fixated, we found that pupil size was significantly smaller in trials in which participants correctly than incorrectly detected a change. Crucially, this difference was greater for the younger adults than for the older adults. Further analyses on correct trials also revealed a significant interaction between group and type of change: older adults had smaller dilation when the target changed in identity compared to when it changed in location, whereas the opposite effect was observed in younger adults. We argue that the greater effort to identify a change in an object’s location compared to a change in identity may reflect the reduced useful field of view in older adults. Our results align with previous evidence of a negative relationship between pupil size and recognition memory and suggest that such pupillometry can help identifying the use of compensatory strategies in older adults during visual working memory tasks.


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