Age group comparisons in cognitive aging: Do visual acuity criteria matter?

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2014 Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting


The influence of visual capacities on cognitive performance in older adults has been frequently posited as being a driving force behind age group differences in task performance. This review of the cognitive aging literature explored the relationship between specific visual acuity criteria commonly utilized by aging researchers in order to assess the validity of concerns that a lack of consensus regarding visual acuity inclusionary criteria has had an effect on the interpretation of age comparisons. Age group comparisons in 462 studies were recorded across a wide array of cognitive domains including attention, executive function, explicit memory, language, perception, and processing speed. Resulting main effects for each study were transformed into effect sizes & age group comparisons by cognitive domain were compared across several inclusionary criteria. Across all domains of cognitive function, no planned comparisons of age differences in performance across visual acuity criterias reached significance. Results indicated that inclusionary criteria vexations in the cross-sectional aging literature is unsubstantiated based upon a significant number of articles across a variety of cognitive domains. Further efforts are needed to determine if visual functioning other than acuity (e.g. contrast sensitivity, luminance) have a more substantial impact on age differences in cognitive functioning.


James R. Houston, Ilana J. Bennett, Philip A. Allen, David J. Madden