Age effects on controlling tools with sensorimotor transformations

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Controlling tools in technical environments bears a lot of challenges for the human information processing system, as locations of tool manipulation and effect appearance are spatially separated, and distal action effects are often not generated in a 1:1 manner. In this study we investigated the susceptibility of older adults to distal action effects. Younger and older participants performed a Fitts’ task on a digitizer tablet without seeing their hand and the tablet directly. Visual feedback was presented on a display in that way, that cursor amplitude and visual target size varied while the pre-determined hand amplitude remained constant. In accordance with distal action effects being predominant in controlling tool actions we found an increase in hand movement times and perceptual errors as a function of visual task characteristics. Middle-aged adults more intensely relied on visual feedback than younger adults. Age-related differences in speed-accuracy trade-off are not likely to account for this finding. However, it is well known that proprioceptive acuity declines with age. This might be one reason for middle-aged adults to stronger rely on the visual information instead of the proprioceptive information. Consequently, design and application of tools for elderly should account for this.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 573
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberDEC
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 24.12.2012

    Research areas

  • Business psychology - Distal action effect, Ideomotor principle, Perception, Proprioception, Proximal action effect, Sensory integration, Tool use, Vision
  • Psychology