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Effects of adult aging on reading filtered text: evidence from eye movements

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Author(s): Kevin B. Paterson | Victoria A. McGowan | Timothy R. Jordan

Journal: PeerJ
ISSN 2167-8359

Volume: 1;
Start page: e63;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Human aging | Eye movements | Reading | Spatial frequencies

ABSTRACT
Objectives. Sensitivity to spatial frequencies changes with age and this may have profound effects on reading. But how the actual contributions to reading performance made by the spatial frequency content of text differs between young (18–30 years) and older (65+ years) adults remains to be fully determined. Accordingly, we manipulated the spatial frequency content of text and used eye movement measures to assess the effects on reading performance in both age groups. Method. Sentences were displayed as normal or filtered to contain only very low, low, medium, high, or very high spatial frequencies. Reading time and eye movements were recorded as participants read each sentence. Results. Both age groups showed good overall reading ability and high levels of comprehension. However, for young adults, normal performance was impaired only by low and very low spatial frequencies, whereas normal performance for older adults was impaired by all spatial frequencies but least of all by medium. Conclusion. While both young and older adults read and comprehended well, reading ability was supported by different spatial frequencies in each age group. Thus, although spatial frequency sensitivity can change with age, adaptive responses to this change can help maintain reading performance in later life.

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