August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
Establishing the Attention-Deficit Trait
Author Affiliations
  • Sophie Forster
    School of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK
  • Nilli Lavie
    Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Research Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, University College London, UK
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 542. doi:
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      Sophie Forster, Nilli Lavie; Establishing the Attention-Deficit Trait. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):542.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Some people appear more prone to experiences of inattention and distraction than others. So far these individual differences have typically been measured using questionnaires (e.g. Broadbent et al., 1982). Here we sought to establish an attention deficit trait using task-performance distraction measures and assessing the extent to which individual differences in distractor interference correlate with attention deficit symptoms. Across two experiments, 151 participants performed a visual search task in the presence of either response competition flankers or entirely irrelevant distractor images of famous cartoon characters. The results of both experiments showed that attention deficit scores significantly predicted the level of reaction time interference from entirely irrelevant distractors. In contrast, these were unrelated to interference from similarly salient response-competition distractors. These findings are consistent with a recent report that clinical levels of ADHD are associated with irrelevant distraction, while often not associated with response competition effects, and establish this dissociation in the healthy non-clinical population. We conclude that an attention-deficit trait involves increased vulnerability to irrelevant distraction. The trait can be predicted from behavioural measures, but only if salient and entirely task-unrelated distractors are presented.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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