Adult Age Differences in the Inhibition of Return of Visual Attention

Student Co-author

Pitzer Undergraduate

Document Type



Psychology (Scripps)

Publication Date



Cognitive Neuroscience | Cognitive Psychology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Responses to targets are slower when they appear at a location to which attention has previously been directed than when they appear at other locations. This inhibition of return (IOR) effect is subserved by posterior brain attentional systems. In 4 experiments the IOR effect in elderly adults was found to be at least as large as in young adults for both discrimination tasks and for detection tasks. The time course and the spread of inhibition within the visual field were also equivalent in the 2 age groups. Additive factors logic was then used to test the hypothesis that the Stroop and IOR effects are due to a common mechanism, a failure to suppress attention. This hypothesis was not confirmed. The results of the 6 experiments are consistent with the hypothesis that there are changes in posterior brain systems responsible for selective attention to a location, contrary to prior claims. They cannot be explained by a general slowing of processing in old age.

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© 1995 American Psychological Association

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