The role of RSVP distractors in the effect of concurrent extraneous cognitive load on AB task performance

Samantha Howard (2010). The role of RSVP distractors in the effect of concurrent extraneous cognitive load on AB task performance PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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s40273220_PhD_abstract.pdf Thesis abstract application/pdf 181.93KB 1
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s4027322_PhD_finalthesis.pdf Final PhD Thesis application/pdf 1.37MB 9
Author Samantha Howard
Thesis Title The role of RSVP distractors in the effect of concurrent extraneous cognitive load on AB task performance
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Jennifer Burt
Associate Professor John McLean
Total pages 179
Total black and white pages 179
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary The attentional blink (AB) is the impaired ability to identify a second target (e.g., letter) presented among a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) of distractors (e.g., digits) when the second target (T2) occurs within approximately 500 ms of a correctly identified first target (T1). One of the more intriguing findings to emerge from recent AB literature is that an observer will show a significantly reduced AB and overall better target accuracy if they simultaneously perform a task that is extraneous to the RSVP (Olivers & Nieuwenhuis, 2005; 2006). Contemporary accounts of this ‘additional task benefit’ emphasise the role of distractors, with the most recent theories highlighting the importance of the processes occurring at T1+1 distractor selection (Olivers & Meeter, 2009; Olivers, van der Stigchel, & Hulleman, 2007). The purpose of this thesis is to test the following three general questions 1) whether the T1+1 distractor item plays a crucial role in the additional task benefit, 2) whether the additional task benefit is sensitive to the level of discriminability between targets and distractors, and 3) whether distractors are essential for demonstrating the additional task benefit. A preliminary set of experiments replicated Olivers and Nieuwenhuis’ (2006) finding of an additional task benefit on target identification accuracy in a standard AB task. In a set of follow-up AB experiments, RSVP targets were four-letter words and distractors were orthographically acceptable (word-similar) or orthographically unacceptable (word-dissimilar) non-words. The findings indicated that a low degree of discriminability between targets and distractors is pivotal for showing the beneficial effect of secondary task load. It was also shown that reducing the effectiveness of the T1+1 mask through distractor repetition eliminates the additional task benefit. These findings were extended in two final experiments demonstrating an additional task benefit when there were no distractors between T1 and T2, but no additional task benefit in an RSVP of successive target stimuli. These results suggest that the effect of secondary task load principally depends on the presence of T1 and an adequate temporal frame in which this initial target may be processed before the onset of T2. Taken together, the project’s findings are inconsistent with contemporary distractor-based models of the secondary task benefit on AB task performance. Instead, the findings match recent accounts of the AB, which emphasise the dynamics of attentional processes involved in target selection.
Keyword Attention
Attentional blink
distraction
secondary task
Distractors
RSVP
Cognitive load

 
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