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Matthew Windsor, Mark Neider, Arthur Kramer; Learning to Ignore Distraction: Training and Transfer. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):235. doi: 10.1167/11.11.235.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Effective information filtering is an essential component of goal directed behavior. Our ability to selectively choose what information we attend to allows us to successfully perform a given task. Though attentional selection is not unique to the visual domain, the effective allocation of visual attention is important in our lives. Traditionally, training of visual attention has shown to be highly specific to the trained task or trained stimuli. However, recent research has shown that, with training, individuals are able to improve their ability to filter out distracting task-irrelevant images while performing a primary color discrimination task. Furthermore, when the trained distractor images are highly variable and dissimilar, individuals showed a greater ability to effectively filter distracting information at novel, untrained locations providing some evidence for transfer of training (Kelley & Yantis, 2009). However, it is unclear how broadly the previously observed attention training may transfer beyond the trained task. To explore this issue we had participants complete two sessions of training on a color discrimination task: one session with and one session without highly variable distractor images. In addition, participants also completed a number of cognitive tasks both before and after training to assess breadth of transfer. Consistent with previous findings, participants were able to overcome distraction related performance decrements and apply this generalized filtering mechanism to previously unseen distractor locations in the context of the same task. In addition, differential training benefits were observed at transfer to unrelated cognitive tasks including a simple reaction time task (31 ms reduction vs. 8 ms for controls) and a Stroop task (63 ms RT reduction vs. 20 ms for controls). These findings have positive implications for individuals’ ability to effectively train visual attention and information selection processes to provide benefits extending beyond the trained task itself.
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