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We examined the age-related variation in one type of inter-trial effect of visual search, the distractor previewing effect (DPE), in affectively neutral and affectively charged contexts. In Experiment 1, children, adolescents, and young adults were faster to identify the shape of a color target when the color of the current distractors had already been previewed than when the target had been previewed in the preceding target-absent trial, indicative of a color-based DPE. The results revealed a greater DPE in children than in adolescents and young adults, but it can be attributed to children's slower RTs than the other two groups. In Experiment 2, children, adolescents, and young adults were instructed to respond to a schematic face that was different from the other two faces. Young adults were faster in searching for a threatening face among friendly ones when they had previewed a target-absent display consisting of friendly faces than that of threatening faces, indicating an emotional DPE. By contrast, children showed a reversed DPE under the same condition, whereas adolescents showed no DPE. Taken together, these results suggested that the three age groups were all able to create an inhibitory attentional bias on the basis of trial history in affectively neutral context, whereas children and adolescents were not able to create such an inhibitory attentional bias in affectively charged contexts in the same way as adults did. These findings implied that the development of attentional inhibition abilities in affectively charged contexts might be delayed compared to those in affectively neutral contexts.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Acta psychologica
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