Effects of aging on biological motion discrimination
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Previous studies have shown that older subjects have difficulties discriminating the walking direction of point-light walkers. In two experiments, we investigated the underlying cause in further detail. In Experiment 1, subjects had to discriminate the walking direction of upright and inverted point-light walkers in a cloud of randomly moving dots. In general, older subjects performed less accurately and showed an increased inversion effect. Nevertheless, they were as accurate as young subjects for upright walkers during training, in which no noise was added to the display. These results indicate that older subjects are less able to extract relevant information from noisy displays. In Experiment 2, subjects discriminated the walking direction of scrambled walkers that primarily contained local motion information, random-position walkers that primarily contained global form information, and normal point-light walkers that contained both kinds of information. Both age groups performed at chance when no global form information was present in the display but were equally accurate for walkers that only contained global form information. However, when both local motion and global form information were present in the display, older subjects were less accurate then younger subjects. Older subjects again exhibited an increased inversion effect. These results indicate that both older and younger subjects rely more on global form than local motion to discriminate the direction of point-light walkers. Also, older subjects seem to have difficulties integrating global form and local motion information as efficiently as younger subjects.
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