Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Art


Previous studies have shown that old adults perform more poorly on the classic Sperling partial report task than do young adults. In this study, the researcher examined whether age differences in performance could be accounted for by changes in visual and perceptual ability. Eighteen old adults (M = 70 years) and 18 young adults (M = 22 years) were administered whole and partial report trials with stimulus durations of 150 ms; a second group of 18 young adults was tested with stimulus durations of 30 ms. Stimuli were presented at two levels of contrast (98 and 44 percent) and the partial report trials included four cue-delay conditions (0, 50, 150, 300 ms). Measures of processing speed, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and word fluency were collected as predictor variables. Old adults demonstrated partial report superiority at the 0 ms cue-delay, but fell to whole report levels at longer delays. Young participants demonstrated partial report superiority across all cue-delays, regardless of stimulus duration. Letter recall was not influenced by stimulus contrast. Predictor variables, except word fluency, accounted for approximately equal amounts of age-related variability. Results suggest that factors such as processing speed and visual ability, rather than changes in iconic memory, may be responsible for age differences in partial report performance.


Cognition and Perception | Psychology