Background: Previous studies indicate that older adults, like young adults, can efficiently search for a briefly presented visual target defined by a single salient feature presented amidst background distractors. However, little is known about older adults’ ability to identify the spatial location of targets during this aspect of preattentive processing. Objective: This study examined the extent to which older adults exhibit localization problems during feature search for a target with high conspicuity. Their performance was compared to that of younger adults. Methods: Twenty older adults (mean age 70 years, 8 men and 12 women) and 20 younger adults (mean age 25 years, 6 men and 14 women) with good central and peripheral vision were tested. Subjects were asked to indicate via a computerized touch-screen the location of a briefly presented (80 ms) target presented amidst distracting stimuli (set size 8, 16, or 32). Targets were presented at either 10Results: Compared to young adults, older adults committed more localization errors during feature search, a problem which was accentuated with increasing target eccentricity. In addition, older adults’ mislocalizations deviated from the correct location by greater distances. Conclusions: Older adults have spatial localization problems in preattentive processing during feature search, which could be detrimental to the guidance and deployment of visual attention.

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