Accurate mental representation of visual stimuli requires retaining not only the individual features but also the correct relationship between them. This associative process of binding is mediated by working memory (WM) mechanisms. The present study re-examined reports of WM-related binding deficits with aging. In Experiment 1, 31 older and 31 younger adults completed a visual change detection task with feature-location relations presented either simultaneously or sequentially; the paradigm was also designed specifically to minimize the impact of lengthy retention intervals, elaborative rehearsal, and processing demands of multi-stimulus probes. In Experiment 2, 38 older and 42 younger adults completed a modified task containing both feature-location relations and feature-feature conjunctions. In Experiment 1 although feature-location binding was more difficult with sequential compared with simultaneous presentation, the effect was independent of age. In Experiment 2 while older adults were overall slower and less accurate than young adults, there were no age-specific deficits in WM binding. Overall, after controlling for methodological factors, there was no evidence of an age-related visual WM binding deficit for surface or location features. However, unlike younger adults, older adults appeared less able to restrict processing of irrelevant features, consistent with reported declines with age in strategic capacities of WM.
- working memory