Adult age differences in multi-source selection behaviour with partially predictable signals


Department of Behavioural Sciences, Huddersfield Polytechnic, Queensgate, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire HD1 3DH.

Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow.


When important information arrives intermittently at spatially separate sources people must divide attention if they wish to assimilate it. Previous research has demonstrated that, under appropriate circumstances, more attention will be allocated to those sources where the information is more likely to occur. Some recent studies have suggested that this selectivity of behaviour is found to a much lesser extent in the elderly, though such results are ambiguous because of methodological inadequacies. The present paper introduces a new method for investigating the allocation of attention which avoids these previous difficulties. Nevertheless, the results do demonstrate an age-related loss in selectivity, suggesting these findings are reliable and of considerable generality. It is suggested that the elderly are poorer processors of stochastic information, and that in the present task this may be due to a reduced capacity for remembering the moment to moment probabilities of information being presented to each of the sources.