Classification of simple sensory events in younger and older adults: Are they different
Keywords:Acoustic intensity, Geriatrics, Auditory stimuli
AbstractIn a number of listening tasks, including speech, listeners have to be able to identify and keep track of a number of different stimuli (the absolute identification problem). The following research was undertaken in an attempt to determine if younger and older adults differ in terms of their ability to identify and keep track of simple auditory stimuli as the number of stimuli increases. In the first experiment, younger and older adults were tested for their ability to identify pure tones varying only in intensity. The capacity to keep a large number of tones in mind was evaluated by increasing the number of intensities to be identified from 2 to 8 intensities. In the second experiment, the ability of younger and older adults to identify 4 tones varying in intensity was tested. After determining how well younger and older adults could identify these four tones, we added a fifth tone that differed in intensity from the original 4 by as much as 50 dB. Some theorists claim that older and younger adults differ in their ability to inhibit unwanted information from entering working memory and interfering with task relevant processing. When the added tone differs significantly in intensity from the original four tones, it is likely to have a very distinct sensory representation. Therefore, any tendency for this tone to interfere with the identification of the original four could be attributed to higher-order, non-sensory processes. Adding such a tone to the set should disrupt the processing of the older adults more than that of the younger adults. Thus, in the second experiment, we expected to see the older adults' identification of the original 4 tones be more disrupted by the addition of the 5th tone than the younger adults' identification.
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