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David Chan, Jason Rajsic, Jay Pratt; Keeners and Procrastinators: Investigating Individual differences in visual cognition between voluntary signup across school semesters. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1333. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.12.1333.
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University-based psychological research typically relies on the participation of undergraduate students for data collection. With such participants, circadian timing effects have been shown to modulate attention and cognitive control, with student participants showing greater attention control in the afternoon than in the morning (Blake, 1967). On a longer time scale, researchers have anecdotally commented that semester differences may produce different outcomes in attentional and cognitive studies, with participants that sign up early in the semester being more attentive and focussed than those that sign up at the end of the semester. The purpose of our study was to test this anecdotal claim, and investigate the effect of time of semester across a set of attentional and cognitive tasks. To do so, participants completed canonical versions of a visual working memory (VWM) task, a flanker task, and a multiple object tracking (MOT) task. Crucially, we tested students who signed up at the beginning of the semester (within the first 3 weeks of school), and at the end of the semester (within 3 weeks until the end of class). Our results demonstrate that students at the end of the semester did not show any significant differences in the MOT task and VWM task, even though both these tasks require high levels of effort and concentration. Interestingly, there was a significant difference in the flanker task, such that early semester students showed a stronger flanker effect. In other words, later semester students were less susceptible to inference from irrelevant peripheral distractors, suggesting differences in perceptual load across the early and later semester groups. Overall, it appears that there can be differences between participants who choose to sign up early in the semester from those near the end of the semester, but these differences may be limited to particular cognitive processes
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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