Attention failures versus misplaced diligence: separating attention lapses from speed-accuracy trade-offs.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In two studies of a GO-NOGO task assessing sustained attention, we examined the effects of (1) altering speed-accuracy trade-offs through instructions (emphasizing both speed and accuracy or accuracy only) and (2) auditory alerts distributed throughout the task. Instructions emphasizing accuracy reduced errors and changed the distribution of GO trial RTs. Additionally, correlations between errors and increasing RTs produced a U-function; excessively fast and slow RTs accounted for much of the variance of errors. Contrary to previous reports, alerts increased errors and RT variability. The results suggest that (1) standard instructions for sustained attention tasks, emphasizing speed and accuracy equally, produce errors arising from attempts to conform to the misleading requirement for speed, which become conflated with attention-lapse produced errors and (2) auditory alerts have complex, and sometimes deleterious, effects on attention. We argue that instructions emphasizing accuracy provide a more precise assessment of attention lapses in sustained attention tasks.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Seli, P; Cheyne, JA; Smilek, D

Published Date

  • March 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 21 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 277 - 291

PubMed ID

  • 22001770

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1090-2376

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1053-8100

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.concog.2011.09.017


  • eng