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Brandon Tomm, Jiaying Zhao; Resource scarcity impairs visual online detection and prospective memory. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):99. doi: 10.1167/17.10.99.
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Operating under limited resources (e.g., money, time) poses significant demands on the cognitive system. Scarcity induces attentional trade-offs of information in the environment, which can impact memory encoding. In three experiments (N=227) we demonstrate that people under time scarcity failed to detect time-saving cues as they occur in the environment, suggesting that scarcity impairs the ability to detect online cues. These time-saving cues, if noticed, would have saved more time for the time poor participants, alleviating the condition of scarcity. A follow-up experiment showed that the visuospatial proximity of the time-saving cues to the focal task determined successful detection of the time-saving cues, suggesting that the online detection errors can be explained by spatial attention on the task at hand. Thus, time scarcity may cause attentional trade-offs whereby attention is focused on the task at hand, while ironically, other beneficial information is neglected as it occurs in the environment. We also demonstrate that people under time scarcity were more likely to forget previous instructions to execute future actions, suggesting that scarcity causes prospective memory errors. Ironically, the time poor participants failed to remember previous instructions which, if followed, would have saved them time. These experiments show that scarcity impairs the online detection of beneficial information in the environment, as well as the execution of prospective memory cues. Failures of prospective memory and online detection are particularly problematic because they cause forgetting and neglect of beneficial information, perpetuating the condition of scarcity. The current studies provide a new cognitive account for the counterproductive behaviors in individuals under resource scarcity, and have implications for interventions to reduce neglect and forgetting in the poor.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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