Spatial updating of haptic arrays across the lifespan
Publication Name: Experimental Aging Research
Background: Aging research addressing spatial learning, representation, and action is almost exclusively based on vision as the input source. Much less is known about how spatial abilities from non-visual inputs, particularly from haptic information, may change during lifespan spatial development. This research studied whether learning and updating of haptic target configurations differs as a function of age.
Method: Three groups of participants, ranging from 20 to 80 years, felt four-target table-top circular arrays and then performed several tasks to assess lifespan haptic spatial cognition. Measures evaluated included egocentric pointing, allocentric pointing, and array reconstruction after physical or imagined spatial updating.
Results: All measures revealed reliable differences between the oldest and youngest participant groups. Our age effect for egocentric pointing contrasts with previous findings showing preserved egocentric spatial abilities. Error performance on allocentric pointing and map reconstruction tasks showing a clear age effect, with the oldest participants exhibiting the greatest error, are in line with other studies in the visual domain. Post-updating performance sharply declined with age but did not reliably differ between physical and imagined updating.
Conclusion: Results suggest that there is a general trend for age-related degradation of spatial abilities after haptic learning, with the greatest declines manifesting in all measures in people over 60 years of age. Results are interpreted in terms of a spatial aging effect on mental transformations of 3D representations of space in working memory.
Giudice, N.A., Bennett, C.R., Klatzky, R.L., and Loomis, J.M. (2017). Spatial Updating of haptic arrays across the lifespan. Experimental Aging Research. 43(3), 274-290.