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J Gerontol. 1988 Nov;43(6):P151-6.

Age differences in divided attention in a simulated driving task.

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Department of Neuropsychology and Psychobiology, State University Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


The ability of young, middle-aged, and old adults to divide attention was examined using a dual task experiment involving two continuous performance tasks. The first task was a compensatory tracking task modeled after the important everyday activity of car driving. The second task was a self-paced visual choice-reaction time task requiring analysis of a small visual display presented in such a way that no eye movements were required when the two tasks had to be performed simultaneously. Single-task difficulty was individually adjusted for each subject. Performance-Operating-Characteristics were used to control for individual differences in attention allocation strategies. Even when individual differences in single task performance were adequately controlled for, elderly adults showed a significantly decreased ability to divide attention when compared with young and middle-aged adults. Young and middle-aged adults did not differ in the ability to divide attention.

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