The ability to point to well-known places in young and older adults
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Background and aims
A mental map of well-known places is organized according to a specific orientation where spatial information located in front of a person is more accessible than information located at the back (front-back effect). This study investigated age-related differences between young and older adults in building a mental map of well-known places when front and back pointing were required.
Thirty young (20–30 year olds) and 29 older (60–72 year olds) adults living in the same Italian town were compared in their ability to point to places inside their own town, and surrounding villages located in the front and back of their physical position in the city. A series of visuo-spatial tasks were also administered.
Our results showed that young and older adults’ performance in pointing to well-known places did not differ significantly, and that participants were affected by the pointing direction (i.e. forwards vs. backwards) and the type of place (i.e. in town vs. surrounding villages). It was easier for both young and older adults to point to places in town that were in front of them rather than behind them; there were no differences between pointing forwards or backwards in the surrounding villages. The influence of visuo-spatial abilities on pointing performance changed as a function of age: it was only in the older adults (not in the younger) that a spatial visualization task correlated with pointing performance.
This study showed that older adults, despite their spatial cognitive decline shown by visuo-spatial tasks, retained the ability to build a mental representation of well-known places and were specifically sustained by spatial visualization ability.
KeywordsPointing ability Visuo-spatial abilities Age differences
Conflict of interest
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