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Description: Healthy aging is associated with decline in the ability to maintain visual information in working memory. We examined whether this decline can be explained by decreases in the ability to filter distraction during encoding or to ignore distraction during memory maintenance. Distraction consisted of irrelevant objects (Exp. 1) or irrelevant features of an object (Exp. 2). In Experiment 1 participants completed a spatial WM task requiring remembering locations on a grid. During encoding or during maintenance, irrelevant distractor positions were presented. In Experiment 2, participants encoded either single-feature (colors or orientations) or multi-feature objects (colored triangles) and later reproduced one of these features using a continuous scale. In multi-feature blocks, a pre-cue appeared before encoding or a retro-cue appeared during memory maintenance indicating with 100% certainty the to-be-tested feature, thereby enabling filtering and ignoring of the irrelevant (not-cued) feature, respectively. There were no age-related deficits in the efficiency of filtering and ignoring distractor objects (Exp. 1), and of filtering irrelevant features (Exp. 2). Both younger and older adults could not ignore irrelevant features when cued with a retro-cue. Overall, our results provide no evidence for an aging deficit in using attention to manage visual WM.


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