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07-08-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2020 Open Access

Psychological Research 3/2020

Visual attention, biological motion perception, and healthy ageing

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2020
Hannah C. Agnew, Louise H. Phillips, Karin S. Pilz


Biological motion perception is the ability of the visual system to perceive complex human movement patterns. The previous studies have shown a direct link between attentional abilities and performance on biological motion tasks, both of which have been shown to deteriorate with age. However, it is not known whether there is a direct link between age-related deficits in biological motion processing and attention. Here, we investigated whether age-related changes in biological motion perception are mediated by impaired attentional abilities. To assess basic biological motion performance, we asked 42 younger (M = 21 years) and 39 older adults (M = 69 years) to indicate the facing direction of point-light actions. Performance did not differ between age groups. We assessed visual spatial and selective attentional abilities, using a range of tasks: conjunctive visual search, spatial cueing, and the Stroop task. Across all tasks, older adults were significantly slower to respond and exhibited larger interference/cueing effects, compared to younger adults. To assess attentional demands in relation with biological motion perception, participants performed a biological motion search task for which they had to indicate the presence of a target point-light walker among a varied number of distracters. Older adults were slower, and generally worse than younger adults at discriminating the walkers. Correlations showed that there was no significant relationship between performance in attention tasks and biological motion processing, which indicates that age-related changes in biological motion perception are unlikely to be driven by general attentional decline.

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