Establishing the attention-distractibility trait

Forster, Sophie and Lavie, Nilli (2016) Establishing the attention-distractibility trait. Psychological Science, 27 (2). pp. 203-212. ISSN 1467-9280

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Failures to focus attention will affect any task engagement (e.g., at work, in the classroom, when driving). At the clinical end, distractibility is a diagnostic criterion of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In this study, we examined whether the inability to maintain attentional focus varies in the overall population in the form of an attention-distractibility trait. To test this idea, we administered an ADHD diagnostic tool to a sample of healthy participants and assessed the relationship between ADHD symptoms and task distraction. ADHD symptom summary scores were significantly positively associated with distractor interference in letter-search and name-classification tasks (as measured by reaction time), as long as the distractors were irrelevant (cartoon images) rather than relevant (i.e., compatible or incompatible with target names). Higher perceptual load during a task eliminated distraction irrespective of ADHD score. These findings suggest the existence of an attention-distractibility trait that confers vulnerability to irrelevant distraction, which can be remedied by increasing the level of perceptual load during the task.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: Q Science > QZ Psychology
Depositing User: Sophie Forster
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2016 10:49
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2017 13:28

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