Visual Search Across the Life Span

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Gains and losses in visual search were studied across the life span in a representative sample of 298 individuals from 6 to 89 years of age. Participants searched for single-feature and conjunction targets of high or low eccentricity. Search was substantially slowed early and late in life, age gradients were more pronounced in conjunction than in feature search, and all age groups were uniformly affected by eccentricity manipulations. However, developmental and aging trends were distinctly asymmetrical: Children's performance was particularly affected by the mere presence of distractors; whereas in late life, performance was particularly impaired on target-absent trials and with increasing numbers of distractors. The implications for life span theories of cognitive and attentional development and for cognitive-speed and inhibitory-control accounts are discussed.

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