Visual information processing in young and older adults. Academic Article uri icon


  • Decline in information processing with age is well-documented in the scientific literature. However, some discrepancy remains in relation to which cognitive domains are most susceptible to the aging process and which may remain intact. Furthermore, information processing has not been investigated nor considered as a function of affect, familiarity and complexity of tasks in a single experimental study. Thus, the current study investigated rate of visual information processing in 67 young university students (M age = 19.64 years) and 33 educated healthy older adults (M age = 70.33 years), while accounting for depression, anxiety and stress symptoms using the DASS. Rates of visual processing were measured as minimum time of stimulus exposure duration required for correct object recognition on a simple visual task [Inspection Time (IT)], and on a more complex visual cognitive task known as Change Detection (CD)] as well as words per minute on a text reading task (FastaReada). The results demonstrated significantly slower performance by older adults on the IT and CD, but comparable rates of text reading on a semantically more complex, but ecologically valid and familiar visual task that requires organized sequential shifts in attention via eye movements, continuous visual processing, access to working memory and semantic comprehension. The results also demonstrated that affective influences did not play a role in the older adults task performance, and that changes in cognitive domains may begin with older adults being slower to attend to and identify newly appearing familiar objects, as well as slower to encode and embed new information in memory during tasks that require a less practiced/familiar task strategy.

publication date

  • 2019