This study looks at how people of different ages focus on certain parts of an image, a process known as fixation selection. This is often guided by “bottom-up” processes, which are driven by basic features like color and brightness, and “top-down” processes, which are more about our intentions and what we’re trying to achieve.
When we’re young, we rely a lot on bottom-up processes, focusing on parts of an image that are bright or colorful. As we get older, we switch more to top-down processes, focusing on parts of an image that are more important to what we’re trying to do. However, as we age, our ability to use bottom-up processes can decrease.
To study this, we observed how children aged 7-9, adults aged 19-27, and older adults over 72 looked at different images, then tested how well they remembered parts of the images. As expected, adults performed best, with children and older adults not doing as well. We found that children tended to focus on the most visually striking parts of an image, showing they rely on bottom-up processes. On the other hand, older adults’ focus was less tied to these elements, suggesting a top-down strategy.
We also found an interesting difference between children and older adults in how their explorative viewing – looking around an image – impacted their fixation selection. For kids, being more explorative meant less focus on the basic features, while for older adults, being more explorative actually increased their focus on these elements, and helped them perform better in the task.
In summary, this study shows that as we age, the way we look at and interpret images changes significantly, with a shift from focusing on basic visual features to focusing more on parts relevant to our task at hand.
Authors: Alper Açık, Adjmal Sarwary, Rafael Schultze-Kraft, Selim Onat, Peter König
Publication date: 2010/11/25
Journal: Frontiers in psychology
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
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