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Article

Reduced Attentional Control in Older Adults Leads to Deficits in Flexible Prioritization of Visual Working Memory

Department of Psychology, Brock University, St Catharines, ON L2S 3A1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
S.E.H. and H.A.L. contributed equally to this work.
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(8), 542; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080542
Received: 30 June 2020 / Revised: 7 August 2020 / Accepted: 8 August 2020 / Published: 11 August 2020
Visual working memory (VWM) resources have been shown to be flexibly distributed according to item priority. This flexible allocation of resources may depend on attentional control, an executive function known to decline with age. In this study, we sought to determine how age differences in attentional control affect VWM performance when attention is flexibly allocated amongst targets of varying priority. Participants performed a delayed-recall task wherein item priority was varied. Error was modelled using a three-component mixture model to probe different aspects of performance (precision, guess-rate, and non-target errors). The flexible resource model offered a good fit to the data from both age groups, but older adults showed consistently lower precision and higher guess rates. Importantly, when demands on flexible resource allocation were highest, older adults showed more non-target errors, often swapping in the item that had a higher priority at encoding. Taken together, these results suggest that the ability to flexibly allocate attention in VWM is largely maintained with age, but older adults are less precise overall and sometimes swap in salient, but no longer relevant, items possibly due to their lessened ability to inhibit previously attended information. View Full-Text
Keywords: aging; working memory; visual working memory; attentional control aging; working memory; visual working memory; attentional control
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MDPI and ACS Style

Henderson, S.E.; Lockhart, H.A.; Davis, E.E.; Emrich, S.M.; Campbell, K.L. Reduced Attentional Control in Older Adults Leads to Deficits in Flexible Prioritization of Visual Working Memory. Brain Sci. 2020, 10, 542. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080542

AMA Style

Henderson SE, Lockhart HA, Davis EE, Emrich SM, Campbell KL. Reduced Attentional Control in Older Adults Leads to Deficits in Flexible Prioritization of Visual Working Memory. Brain Sciences. 2020; 10(8):542. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080542

Chicago/Turabian Style

Henderson, Sarah E., Holly A. Lockhart, Emily E. Davis, Stephen M. Emrich, and Karen L. Campbell 2020. "Reduced Attentional Control in Older Adults Leads to Deficits in Flexible Prioritization of Visual Working Memory" Brain Sciences 10, no. 8: 542. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10080542

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