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Poster F36

Reduced distractor filtering with age: Evidence from the distractor positivity ERP

Poster Session F - Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Rosa E. Torres1 (, Christine Salahub2, Stephen M. Emrich1, Karen L. Campbell1; 1Brock University, 2University Health Network

In everyday life, the intricate process of attentional control plays a crucial role in filtering distracting information. Although finding a target in a visual search can be facilitated by providing positive cues (indicating what to attend to), negative cues (indicating what to ignore) may initially bias attention towards distractors (Zhang et al., 2020). This may be particularly true in individuals with less efficient inhibitory control, such as anxious individuals (Salahub & Emrich, 2021) and older adults (Torres et al., 2023; Weeks et al., 2020). To test the efficacy of positive and negative cues in a sample with lower inhibitory abilities, older adults’ filtering performance was compared to younger adults’ in a visual search task while EEG was recorded. Participants were provided with either positive or negative pre-cues indicating the feature of the target or distractor, and a neutral control condition. Results indicate that older adults benefit most from positive cues, showing a higher N2pc, as well as shorter reaction times, in response to lateral targets. In contrast to young adults, when presented with negative cues, older adults show no Pd component to lateral distractors in any condition, suggesting that they did not inhibit distracting information. Older adults also took longer to respond when presented with negative cues (comparable reaction time to neutral cue trials). These results suggest older adults (with impaired inhibitory abilities) have particular difficulty suppressing distractors when a negative cue is provided, presumably because they have difficult disengaging attention from negatively cued items once it is directed there.

Topic Area: ATTENTION: Spatial


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April 13–16  |  2024