Adult developmental trajectories of pseudoneglect in the tactile, visual and auditory modalities and the influence of starting position and stimulus length

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Pseudoneglect is a tendency to pay more attention to the left side of space, typically demonstrated on tasks like visuo-spatial line bisection, tactile rod bisection and the mental representation of numbers. The developmental trajectory of this bias on these three tasks is not fully understood. In the current study younger participants aged between 18 and 40 years of age and older participants aged between 55 and 90 years conducted three spatial tasks: (1) visuospatial line bisection – participants were asked to bisect visually presented lines of different lengths at the perceived midpoint; (2) touch-driven tactile rod bisection in the absence of vision – participants were asked to feel the length of a wooden rod with their index finger and bisect the rod at the perceived centre; and (3) mental number line bisection in the absence of vision – participants were asked to listen to a pair of numbers and respond with the numerical midpoint between the pair. The results showed that both younger and older participants demonstrated pseudoneglect (leftward biases) in the visual, tactile and mental number line tasks and that the magnitude of pseudoneglect for each group was influenced by physical or mentally represented starting side (start left versus start right) and stimulus length. We provide an exploration of pseudoneglect in younger and older adults in different tasks that vary in the degree to which mental representations are accessed and argue that pseudoneglect is a result of a right hemisphere attentional orienting process that is retained throughout adulthood. Our results indicate that, contrary to some current models of cognitive ageing, asymmetrical patterns of hemispheric activity may occur in older age.

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