Target value and prevalence influence visual foraging in younger and older age

Date Published:

2021 Sep


The prevalence and reward-value of targets have an influence on visual search. The strength of the effect of an item's reward-value on attentional selection varies substantially between individuals and is potentially sensitive to aging. We investigated individual and age differences in a hybrid foraging task, in which the prevalence and value of multiple target types was varied. Using optimal foraging theory measures, foraging was more efficient overall in younger than older observers. However, the influence of prevalence and value on target selections was similar across age groups, suggesting that the underlying cognitive mechanisms are preserved in older age. When prevalence was varied but target value was balanced, younger and older observers preferably selected the most frequent target type and were biased to select another instance of the previously selected target type. When value was varied, younger and older observers showed a tendency to select high-value targets, but preferences were more diverse between individuals. When value and prevalence were inversely related, some observers showed particularly strong preferences for high-valued target types, while others showed a preference for high-prevalent, albeit low-value, target types. In younger adults, individual differences in the selection choices correlated with a personality index, suggesting that avoiding selections of low-value targets may be related to reward-seeking behaviour.

Last updated on 09/30/2021