Young and old subjects performed a mental rotation task with a within- subject instructional manipulation of speed/accuracy criteria. The three sets of instructions emphasized speed, accuracy, or both speed and accuracy equally. Both age groups changed reaction time (RT) in response to instructions, but there was no Age x Instruction interaction. Whereas young subjects showed decreases in accuracy with decreasing RT, older adults showed relatively stable levels of accuracy with decreasing RT, suggesting that young subjects were more willing to sacrifice accuracy for improvement in speed. Speed/accuracy operating characteristics for the two groups did not overlap, suggesting that age differences in response criteria cannot completely account for age differences in mental rotation performance.
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