A serial mental-rotation (MR) task similar to one developed by Bethell-Fox and Shepard (1988) was used to evaluate adult age differences in encoding, rotation, and decision processes. Older adults’ response times were longer in each processing stage, and there were small age differences in rotation-stage slopes. Decision times and error rates increased as a function of rotation angle, and were differentially affected by age. The results are consistent with the hypothesis of age-related loss of information from spatial working memory when rotational transformation is required, and suggest that a proportion of age-related slowing in MR slopes found in simultaneous presentation of pairs of figures may reflect age differences in the speed of postrotational decision processes.
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