Radicle blog / Notes on the paper, Attitudes towards Attention and Aging: What Differences between Younger and Older Adults Tell Us about Mobile Technology Design

The authors examine differences between older and younger adults’ concepts of attention in relation to mobile-device use to inform future development.

“The design of mobile technologies and their interfaces has evolved dramatically over the past decade in the hope of making them easier to use. They pervade many aspects of everyday life but, among older adults, the technology is frequently still seen as fiddly, awkward to use, frustrating, distracting or somehow inappropriate.”

Only information at the focus of attention tends to be processed to the high levels required for optimum cognition, perception and action.

Term of art: irrelevant attentional capture.

“In the psychological domain, attention is understood as a process that enables us to adequately function in a highly perceptual stimulus-driven world.”

“Attention can be consciously paid to something but can also be involuntarily diverted.”

“Robertson, Ward, Ridgeway, and Nimmo-Smith (1996) propose three distinct types of attention: ‘selective attention’ which is the ability to filter out stimuli whilst focusing on another stimulus; ‘divided attention’ is the sharing of attention between different stimuli; ‘sustained attention’ is the focus of attention to particular stimuli over time.”

“If the use of a device is associated with a high degree of error then the individual will not use it.”

“Failures arising from unsuitable design when interacting with a device could lead an older adult to question their own cognitive wellbeing, making interacting with the device an extremely unpleasant experience.”

“In previous work we have observed that older adults had a particular contempt for technology that made them “feel” disabled (Lindsay et al, 2012).”

“Can a mobile phone augment rather than impair an older person’s capacity to attend to the environment?”

“Time and again when work is done with older adults, we see user interfaces criticized for the presence of distracting information, overlays or clutter that go uncommented on with younger users.”

“This study highlights the fact that the concept of attention is not uniformly understood by older adults, designers or academics.”

—Raphael Schindler
25 Aug 2016