Lifespan changes in attention revisited: everyday visual search

Allison A. Brennan, Alison J. Bruderer, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Todd C. Handy, James T. Enns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This study compared visual search under everyday conditions among participants across the life span (healthy participants in 4 groups, with average age of 6 years, 8 years, 22 years, and 75 years, and 1 group averaging 73 years with a history of falling). The task involved opening a door and stepping into a room find 1 of 4 everyday objects (apple, golf ball, coffee can, toy penguin) visible on shelves. The background for this study included 2 well-cited laboratory studies that pointed to different cognitive mechanisms underlying each end of the U-shaped pattern of visual search over the life span (Hommel et al., 2004; Trick & Enns, 1998). The results recapitulated some of the main findings of the laboratory study (e.g., a U-shaped function, dissociable factors for maturation and aging), but there were several unique findings. These included large differences in the baseline salience of common objects at different ages, visual eccentricity effects that were unique to aging, and visual field effects that interacted strongly with age. These findings highlight the importance of studying cognitive processes in more natural settings, where factors such as personal relevance, life history, and bodily contributions to cognition (e.g., limb, head, and body movements) are more readily revealed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-171
Number of pages12
JournalCanadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


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