Effects of Aging on Landmark Recognition
Authors: Grzeschik, Conroy Dalton, R., Innes and Wiener, J.A.N.
Landmark recognition is essential for learning a novel route. However, not every object is a useful landmark, be it due to repetitive occurrence or visual appearance. Salient objects catching attention might be easier to memorize than non-salient objects, but if they appear more than once along the route, they can’t be used as a reliable landmarks. The aim of this study is to investigate how cognitive ageing affects people’s ability to select unique objects as landmarks. To do so, we created two kinds of routes through a virtual care home: simple routes and complex routes, each comprising four intersections each with two objects. For simple routes, the unique landmarks (objects that occurred only once along the route) were also salient. For the complex routes, in contrast, the salient objects occurred twice on the route (=non-salient) and the non-salient objects were unique. In this pilot study, we recorded route learning performance and gaze-behaviour from seven young and seven old (65+) participants. The gaze data revealed that older participants attended less to the unique landmarks on the complex routes than on simple routes, while younger participants primarily attended the unique landmarks, regardless their saliency. This effect was also reflected in the performance data: young participants did not show any performance difference in learning simple and complex routes, whereas the older participants performed better on the simple routes than on the complex routes. The preliminary results suggest that cognitive ageing affects the control of visual attention which, in turn, contributes to age-related deficits in route learning performance.