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University of Guelph
Family Relations and Human Development
FRHD 2060
Gillian Joseph

1 FRHD*2060 - MIDTERM 2 NOTES Ch.6 Attention and Perceptual Processing The Information-Processing Model - information-processing approach is based on three assumptions 1. People are active participants in the process 2. Both quantitative (how much info is remembered) & qualitative (what kinds of info are remembered) aspects of performance can be examined 3. Info is processed through a series of hypothetical stages, or stores. - poses three fundamental for adult development and aging: - Is there evidence of age differences in the storage aspects of info processing (i.e. early stages of processing, secondary memory, long-term memory)? - What evidence is there for age differences in the process aspects of information pro- cessing (i.e. attention)? - Can the age differences in the storage aspects be explained through process aspects? Sensory Memory - all memories start as sensory stimuli - earliest step in information processing, sensory memory, where new, incoming information is first registered - takes in very large amounts of info very rapidly - like a very brief & almost identical representation of the stimuli that exist - representation exists in your mind in the absence of the stimuli - but, if we don’t pay attention to this info very quickly, the representation is lost - age differences in the sensory memory aren’t common Attention - involves at least 3 interdependent processes: selective attention, divided attention, sustained attention - selective attention: the way in which we choose the info we will process further - some info just processed automatically, other info takes effort - we are more likely to process novel or unexpected info than info that we have encountered many times before - small proportion of info in sensory memory is selected for further processing - how do researchers studying aging and cognition investigate selective attention? 2 - most do so by creating tasks in which multiple sources of info are available for process- ing, but only a subset of the info is relevant to the primary task, other info is distractors - performance on task without distractors is compared to performance with distractors - if ppl demonstrate decrease in speed or accuracy in the presence of distractors, it is suggested that there is difficulty in filtering out the distractors - older adults reading times are slowed down by the presence of distracting info - when the target & distractors occupy different & predictable locations, the age differences are substantially smaller Visual Search - performance or attentional filtering on visual search tasks is measured in terms of how quickly ppl respond, called reaction time, or the # & kinds of errors ppl make (accuracy) - older adults are slower & more prone to errors than young adults when the amounts of distrac- tor info are increased and when the location of the target presented in the display is unpre- dictable - these age effects are probably influenced by experience as well - spatial cuing is the procedure in which the location of a future stimulus is shown on a screen - generalized cognitive slowing and failure to use the recommended strategy are possible age- related interpretations Attention Switching - adult’s ability to switch attention between different sensory modalities reveals age differences in the speed in which adults switch attention from an auditory to a visual task - theres a possibility that increased aerobic fitness may improve older adult’s performance on the attention-switching task - the research found that performance in the switching task improved significantly after exercise - more research investigating the importance of exercise on cognitive functioning is needed Selective Attention and Irrelevant Information - age decrements in selectivity appear to be greatest when tasks are complex and little info is available to assist performance - one popular hypothesis is that older adults have more task-irrelevant thoughts during process- ing and have trouble keeping them out of their minds - older adults apparently have more trouble selectively attending to relevant info when the irrele- vant info is presented in the same modality (therefore driving could be an issue) - much research is needed to validate age-related deficits in inhibitory processing - many studies have mixed results 3 Attending to Multiple Stimuli - attentional capacity: the amount of info that can be processed at a time - divided attention: the ability to successfully perform more than one task at the same time or by testing multiple object tracking, the ability to attend to the position of multiple target items as they move - older adults report that dividing attention between most combos of activities becomes more dif- ficult with increasing age & compared with young adults, they rate most combos of activities as more difficult - age differences are found on some divided-attention tasks and not others - part of the explanation involves task complexity and practice - older adults do not do as well as young adults when they must perform multiple tasks at the same time - age differences on divided-attention tasks can also be minimized if older adults are given ex- tensive practice in performing the tasks and reducing the demands on attention - in summary, divided-attention ability per se does not change with age, rather, task complexity is a primary decrement of age-related decrements - moreover, age differences on divided-attention tasks may actually reflect on the fact that each task involves different component processes that are separately affected by aging - dividing attention during retrieval may be particularly challenging Sustained Attention - vigilance or sustained attention: the ability to sustain attention on a task for long periods of time - older adults are not as accurate as younger adults in detecting targets, performance deterio- rates at the same rate for in both age groups - one possible source of decrements in vigilance performance is that health and fitness may af- fect sustained attention, particularly in older adults - those with poorer circulatory health, more often older than younger adults, would therefore be more likely to show poorer vigilance performance - the more demands on attention and working memory, the more likely there was to be an error - there are declines in working memory later in life Attentional Resources The Processing Resources Hypothesis - many researchers believe that with increasing age comes a decline in the amount of available processing resources, the amount of attention one has to apply to a particular situation - problem with this explanation: the concept of processing resources has never been defined clearly - something besides a decline in processing resources is responsible for performance decre- ments with age 4 - researchers conclude that “many cognitive declines are a consequence of inadequate signal processing by aging sensory systems” Automatic Processes - automatic processes are those that are fast, reliable, and insensitive to increased cognitive demands (i.e. performing other tasks) - whether older adults develop automatic processing depends on two major factors 1. a sufficient amount of practice must be provided 2. the type of search task matters - however, if the memory task is difficult, age differences may emerge - how do ppl learn automatic processing? -the processing of a specific & well-trained stimulus, such as a target letter, can auto- matically capture attention, making it an automatic attention response - other researchers believe that it is the components of tasks, not the tasks themselves, that become automatic, for a task to appear automatic, all its component processes must be automatic - thus age & task differences may be the result of differences in the ease with which task components become automatic in people of different ages - research on age-related differences in attention point to two main conclusions: 1. age differences are greatest when when older adults have to perform complex tasks, especially more than one time 2. these decrements appear to be localized where the various pieces of info picked up from a visual display are put together to figure out what the display is Speed of Processing - one of the most replicated findings in the literature is that as ppl age, their response time in cogni
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