Richardson, John T. E. and Vecchi, T.
A jigsaw-puzzle imagery task for assessing active visuopatial processes in old and young people.
Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 34(1),
Recent studies have suggested a theoretical distinction between active elaboration and passive storage in visuospatial working memory, but research with older adults has failed to demonstrate a differential preservation of these two abilities. The results are controversial, and the investigation of the active component has been inhibited by the absence of any appropriate experimental procedures. A new task was developed involving the mental reconstruction of pictures of objects from fragmented pieces, and this provides a useful procedure for exploring active visuospatial processing. Significant differences in terms of both correctness and response latency were obtained between young and older adults and between younger old and older old adults. Performance also varied with visual complexity, mental rotation, and processing load. It is concluded that this ecologically relevant procedure constitutes a very powerful, sensitive, and reliable tool for identifying individual differences in visuospatial working memory.
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