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Establishing the Attention-Distractibility Trait

Forster, S; Lavie, N; (2016) Establishing the Attention-Distractibility Trait. Psychological Science , 27 (2) pp. 203-212. 10.1177/0956797615617761. Green open access

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Abstract

Failures to focus attention will affect any task engagement (e.g., at work, in the classroom, when driving). At the clinical end, distractibility is a diagnostic criterion of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In this study, we examined whether the inability to maintain attentional focus varies in the overall population in the form of an attention-distractibility trait. To test this idea, we administered an ADHD diagnostic tool to a sample of healthy participants and assessed the relationship between ADHD symptoms and task distraction. ADHD symptom summary scores were significantly positively associated with distractor interference in letter-search and name-classification tasks (as measured by reaction time), as long as the distractors were irrelevant (cartoon images) rather than relevant (i.e., compatible or incompatible with target names). Higher perceptual load during a task eliminated distraction irrespective of ADHD score. These findings suggest the existence of an attention-distractibility trait that confers vulnerability to irrelevant distraction, which can be remedied by increasing the level of perceptual load during the task.

Type: Article
Title: Establishing the Attention-Distractibility Trait
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0956797615617761
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797615617761
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2015.
Keywords: ADHD, attention, distraction, perceptual load, personality traits
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1489446
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