Map learning and the alignment effect in young and older adults: how do they gain from having a map available while performing pointing tasks?
Two studies were conducted to investigate age-related differences between young and older adults in the impact of a map being available or not while performing aligned and counter-aligned pointing tasks. In the first study, 19 young adults (aged 20–30) and 19 young–old adults (aged 65–74) studied a map and performed a pointing task. In the second, three groups of adults, 19 of them young (aged 20–30), 19 young–old (aged 65–74), and 19 old–old (aged 75–84), studied a map and performed a pointing task, first with the map available, and then without it. The results of both studies showed that young and older adults’ performance was similar in aligned pointing, while the young performed better than the older adults in counter-aligned pointing. Analyzing the types of error, results showed that older adults made more counter-aligned pointing errors than young adults, both with and without the map. Having the map available improved all participants’ performance, however. Finally, visuo-spatial working memory was found to sustain pointing performance in all age groups and map conditions. Overall, these findings suggest that older adults are specifically susceptible to the alignment effect—making more counter-aligned errors—regardless of whether or not they have a map available while performing pointing tasks.
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