Age-related differences in the perception of gap affordances; Impact of standardized action capabilities on road-crossing judgements.
Recent road-crossing literature has found that older adults show performance differences between estimation and perception-action tasks suggesting an age-related difficulty in accurately calibrating the information picked up from the surrounding environment to their action capabilities (Lobjois and Cavallo, 2009). The present study investigated whether participants could accurately perceive gap affordances via information that specifies the time-to-arrival of the approaching cars. To ensure the opportunities for action were the same across different age groups, independent of the actor’s action capabilities, the action of crossing the road was standardised. A total of 45 participants (15 children, aged 10–12, 15 adults aged 19–39, 15 older adults aged 65+) were asked to judge, by pressing a button in a head-mounted display, whether the gap between oncoming cars afforded crossing. When the participant pressed the button, they moved across the road at a fixed speed. Adherence to a time-based variable (namely tau) explained 85% and 84% of the variance in both the children and adults’ choices, respectively. Older adults tuned less into the time-based variable (tau) with it only accounting for 59% of the variance in road-crossing decisions. These findings suggest that, the ability to use tau information which specifies whether a gap affords crossing or not, deteriorates with age.