Visual search for real world targets under conditions of high target-background similarity: Exploring training and transfer in younger and older adults

Mark B. Neider, Walter R. Boot, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Real world visual search tasks often require observers to locate a target that blends in with its surrounding environment. However, studies of the effect of target-background similarity on search processes have been relatively rare and have ignored potential age-related differences. We trained younger and older adults to search displays comprised of real world objects on either homogenous backgrounds or backgrounds that camouflaged the target. Training was followed by a transfer session in which participants searched for novel camouflaged objects. Although older adults were slower to locate the target compared to younger adults, all participants improved substantially with training. Surprisingly, camouflage-trained younger and older adults showed no performance decrements when transferred to novel camouflage displays, suggesting that observers learned age-invariant, generalizable skills relevant for searching under conditions of high target-background similarity. Camouflage training benefits at transfer for older adults appeared to be related to improvements in attentional guidance and target recognition rather than a more efficient search strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalActa Psychologica
Volume134
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2010

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Camouflage
  • Eye movements
  • Search strategy
  • Visual attention
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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