Author(s): Greenwood PM, Parasuraman R
Abstract Share this page
Abstract The effects of the spatial scale of attention on feature and conjunction search were examined in two experiments. Adult participants in three age groups--young, young-old, and old-old--were given precues of varying validity and precision in indicating the location of a target letter subsequently presented in a visual array. Systematic decreases in the size of a valid precue (toward the size of the target) progressively facilitated both feature and conjunction search, with a greater benefit accruing to conjunction search. Age-related slowing in conjunction search was mitigated by precise (small and valid) precues, presumably because they reduced the need for participants in the young-old group to focus and to shift attention. Nevertheless, this benefit was reduced in the old-old group. The effects of valid location precue size varied with cue-target stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) in a manner that interacted with search difficulty: Effects of cue size developed more rapidly in feature search but more slowly in conjunction search. Finally, when precues were invalid for target location, search was faster with larger sized precues. Thus, in both easy feature search and hard conjunction search, the scale of visuospatial attention modulates the speed of visual search. Furthermore, when the SOA is sufficiently long for cue effects to develop, the ability to dynamically adjust the scale of visuospatial attention appears to decline in advanced age. These results go beyond current models in suggesting that visuospatial attention possesses two dynamic properties--shifting in space and varying in scale--that are deployed independently, depending on task demands.
This article was published in Percept Psychophys
and referenced in Journal of Aging Science