When Aging Does Not Increase Distraction: Evidence From Pure Auditory and Visual Oddball Tasks

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Abstract

Past research indicates that age increases deviance distraction in cross-modal oddball tasks, but results are few and less conclusive in purely auditory oddball tasks, with 3 studies not reporting age-related increase in deviance distraction against 1 that did (d = 1.04). This study aimed to (a) examine the effect of age on deviance distraction using the largest sample size to date to ensure adequate statistical power and (b) extend the study of same-modality deviance distraction to the visual modality. We compared 42 young and 42 older adults in auditory and visual duration discrimination tasks in which stimuli were presented with rare and unexpected task-irrelevant changes in pitch (in the auditory task) or location (in the visual task). The statistical power of our experiment to detect an effect size (d) of 1.04 was .999. Our results showed deviance distraction (longer response times for deviant stimuli than for standard stimuli) in both modalities. Importantly, these effects did not vary with age. Strong support for the absence of age-related variation in deviance distraction was further demonstrated by Bayes factor analysis. We conclude that aging does not appear to increase behavioral distraction by deviant stimuli in same-modality oddball tasks.

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