Healthy Aging and Visual Working Memory: The Effect of Mixing Feature and Conjunction Changes

Stephen Rhodes, Mario Parra Rodriguez, Nelson Cowan, Robert H. Logie

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21 Citations (Scopus)
163 Downloads (Pure)


It has been suggested that an age-related decline in the ability to bind and retain conjunctions of features may account for some of the pronounced decline of visual working memory across the adult life-span. So far the evidence for this suggestion has been mixed with some suggesting a specific deficit in binding to location, while the retention of surface feature conjunctions (e.g. color-shape) appears to remain largely intact. The present experiments follow up on the results of an earlier study finding that older adults were specifically poor at detecting conjunction changes when they were mixed with trials containing changes to individual features, relative to when these trials were blocked (Cowan et al., 2006, Dev. Psychol., 42, pp. 1089). Using stimuli defined by conjunctions of color and shape (Experiment 1), and color and location (Experiment 2) we find no evidence that older adults are less accurate at detecting binding changes when trial types are mixed. Further, analysis of estimates of discriminability provides substantial-to-strong evidence against this suggestion. We discuss these findings in relation to previous studies addressing the same question and suggest that much of the evidence for specific age-related VWM binding deficits is not as strong as it first appears.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354–366
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Visual Working Memory
  • Change Detection
  • Cognitive Aging
  • Feature Binding


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