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Visual Acuity does not Moderate Effect Sizes of Higher-Level Cognitive Tasks.

  • Author(s): Houston, James R
  • Bennett, Ilana J
  • Allen, Philip A
  • Madden, David J
  • et al.
Abstract

Declining visual capacities in older adults have been posited as a driving force behind adult age differences in higher-order cognitive functions (e.g., the "common cause" hypothesis of Lindenberger & Baltes, 1994, Psychology and Aging, 9, 339-355). McGowan, Patterson, and Jordan (2013, Experimental Aging Research, 39, 70-79) also found that a surprisingly large number of published cognitive aging studies failed to include adequate measures of visual acuity. However, a recent meta-analysis of three studies (La Fleur and Salthouse, 2014, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 1202-1208) failed to find evidence that visual acuity moderated or mediated age differences in higher-level cognitive processes. In order to provide a more extensive test of whether visual acuity moderates age differences in higher-level cognitive processes, we conducted a more extensive meta-analysis of topic.Using results from 456 studies, we calculated effect sizes for the main effect of age across four cognitive domains (attention, executive function, memory, and perception/language) separately for five levels of visual acuity criteria (no criteria, undisclosed criteria, self-reported acuity, 20/80-20/31, and 20/30 or better).As expected, age had a significant effect on each cognitive domain. However, these age effects did not further differ as a function of visual acuity criteria.The current meta-analytic, cross-sectional results suggest that visual acuity is not significantly related to age group differences in higher-level cognitive performance-thereby replicating La Fleur and Salthouse (2014). Further efforts are needed to determine whether other measures of visual functioning (e.g., contrast sensitivity, luminance) affect age differences in cognitive functioning.

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