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Concept: Distraction

256

The pervasive use of cell phones impacts many people-both cell phone users and bystanders exposed to conversations. This study examined the effects of overhearing a one-sided (cell phone) conversation versus a two-sided conversation on attention and memory. In our realistic design, participants were led to believe they were participating in a study examining the relationship between anagrams and reading comprehension. While the participant was completing an anagram task, the researcher left the room and participants overheard a scripted conversation, either two confederates talking with each other or one confederate talking on a cell phone. Upon the researcher’s return, the participant took a recognition memory task with words from the conversation, and completed a questionnaire measuring the distracting nature of the conversation. Participants who overheard the one-sided conversation rated the conversation as significantly higher in distractibility than those who overheard the two-sided conversation. Also, participants in the one-sided condition scored higher on the recognition task. In particular they were more confident and accurate in their responses to words from the conversation than participants in the two-sided condition. However, participants' scores on the anagram task were not significantly different between conditions. As in real world situations, individual participants could pay varying amounts of attention to the conversation since they were not explicitly instructed to ignore it. Even though the conversation was irrelevant to the anagram task and contained less words and noise, one-sided conversations still impacted participants' self-reported distractibility and memory, thus showing people are more attentive to cell phone conversations than two-sided conversations. Cell phone conversations may be a common source of distraction causing negative consequences in workplace environments and other public places.

Concepts: Cognitive psychology, Mobile phone, Reading comprehension, Cellular network, Push-button telephone, Distraction, Attention span, Anagram

245

OBJECTIVES: The objective of the present work was to study the impact of technological and social distraction on cautionary behaviours and crossing times in pedestrians. METHODS: Pedestrians were observed at 20 high-risk intersections during 1 of 3 randomly assigned time windows in 2012. Observers recorded demographic and behavioural information, including use of a mobile device (talking on the phone, text messaging, or listening to music). We examined the association between distraction and crossing behaviours, adjusting for age and gender. All multivariate analyses were conducted with random effect logistic regression (binary outcomes) and random effect linear regression (continuous outcomes), accounting for clustering by site. RESULTS: Observers recorded crossing behaviours for 1102 pedestrians. Nearly one-third (29.8%) of all pedestrians performed a distracting activity while crossing. Distractions included listening to music (11.2%), text messaging (7.3%) and using a handheld phone (6.2%). Text messaging, mobile phone use and talking with a companion increased crossing time. Texting pedestrians took 1.87 additional seconds (18.0%) to cross the average intersection (3.4 lanes), compared to undistracted pedestrians. Texting pedestrians were 3.9 times more likely than undistracted pedestrians to display at least 1 unsafe crossing behaviour (disobeying the lights, crossing mid-intersection, or failing to look both ways). Pedestrians listening to music walked more than half a second (0.54) faster across the average intersection than undistracted pedestrians. CONCLUSIONS: Distracting activity is common among pedestrians, even while crossing intersections. Technological and social distractions increase crossing times, with text messaging associated with the highest risk. Our findings suggest the need for intervention studies to reduce risk of pedestrian injury.

Concepts: Observation, Behavior, Human behavior, Mobile phone, Text messaging, Pedestrian, Distraction, Instant messaging

204

BACKGROUND: A number of studies have shown that bite and sip sizes influence the amount of food intake. Consuming with small sips instead of large sips means relatively more sips for the same amount of food to be consumed; people may believe that intake is higher which leads to faster satiation. This effect may be disturbed when people are distracted. OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study is to assess the effects of sip size in a focused state and a distracted state on ad libitum intake and on the estimated amount consumed. DESIGN: In this 3×2 cross-over design, 53 healthy subjects consumed ad libitum soup with small sips (5 g, 60 g/min), large sips (15 g, 60 g/min), and free sips (where sip size was determined by subjects themselves), in both a distracted and focused state. Sips were administered via a pump. There were no visual cues toward consumption. Subjects then estimated how much they had consumed by filling soup in soup bowls. RESULTS: Intake in the small-sip condition was ∼30% lower than in both the large-sip and free-sip conditions (P<0.001). In addition, subjects underestimated how much they had consumed in the large-sip and free-sip conditions (P<0.03). Distraction led to a general increase in food intake (P = 0.003), independent of sip size. Distraction did not influence sip size or estimations. CONCLUSIONS: Consumption with large sips led to higher food intake, as expected. Large sips, that were either fixed or chosen by subjects themselves led to underestimations of the amount consumed. This may be a risk factor for over-consumption. Reducing sip or bite sizes may successfully lower food intake, even in a distracted state.

Concepts: Nutrition, Food, Estimation, Restaurant, Distraction, Cost underestimation, Ad libitum

56

Grunting is pervasive in many athletic contests, and empirical evidence suggests that it may result in one exerting more physical force. It may also distract one’s opponent. That grunts can distract was supported by a study showing that it led to an opponent being slower and more error prone when viewing tennis shots. An alternative explanation was that grunting masks the sound of a ball being hit. The present study provides evidence against this alternative explanation by testing the effect of grunting in a sport-mixed martial arts-where distraction, rather than masking, is the most likely mechanism.

Concepts: Present, Baseball, Distraction, Baseball rules, Fielder's choice, Absent-mindedness

31

Inborn preference for palatable energy-dense food is thought to be an evolutionary adaptation. One way this preference manifests itself is through the control of visual attention. In the present study, we investigated how attentional capture is influenced by changes in naturally occurring goal-states, in this case desire for energy-dense foods (typically high fat and/or high sugar). We demonstrate that even when distractors are entirely irrelevant, participants were significantly more distracted by energy-dense foods compared with non-food objects and even low-energy foods. Additionally, we show the lability of these goal-states by having a separate set of participants consume a small amount of calorie-dense food prior to the task. The amount of distraction by the energy-dense food images in this case was significantly reduced and no different than distraction by images of low-energy foods and images of non-food objects. While naturally occurring goal-states can be difficult to ignore, they also are highly flexible.

Concepts: Psychology, Nutrition, Attention, Food, Flavor, Sugar, Distraction, Attention span

28

Adults of three age groups (18-27, 39-45, and 59-66 years) performed an auditory duration discrimination task with short (200ms) or long (400ms) sinusoidal tones. Performance was highly accurate and reaction times were on the same level in all groups, indicating no differences in auditory duration processing. Task irrelevant rare changes of the frequency of the stimuli were introduced to check whether the subjects, firstly, were distracted by changes in the environment while focusing on the task relevant information (indicated by prolonged responses), and, secondly, could re-focus on the relevant task after distraction. The results show that a distraction effect is present in all groups. Importantly, the 59-66 years group showed a behavioral distraction effect nearly twice as high as the other groups. The event-related brain potentials (ERPs) show mismatch negativity (MMN), P3a, and reorienting negativity (RON) elicited by deviants which are present in all groups. Aging effects on these ERP components were observable in all three components but a revealed a weak significant effect for the MMN only. Taken together, the behavioral and ERP results suggest that the function of balancing the processing of task irrelevant changes in the stimulation while focusing on task relevant information is effective during adulthood until the 7(th) decade of life.

Concepts: Effect, Effectiveness, Ageing, Human behavior, Potential, Event-related potential, Distraction, Attention span

27

Inconsistent results have been reported on the effects of distraction on negative emotions during medical procedures in infants. These differing results may be attributable to the fact that the effects are apparent under a mildly stressful medical procedure. A total of 17 infants, 18 preschoolers, and 15 school-aged children who were hospitalized were administered, monitoring for vital signs, a mildly stressful medical procedure, by a nurse in a uniform with attractive character designs as a distractor. Consistent with the hypothesis, participating infants showed fewer negative behaviors and lower salivary α-amylase levels when distracted. The results support the efficacy of distraction in infants under a mildly stressful medical procedure.

Concepts: Medical imaging, Vital signs, Human behavior, Consistency, Distraction, Medical procedure

9

Medical students can have difficulty in distinguishing left from right. Many infamous medical errors have occurred when a procedure has been performed on the wrong side, such as in the removal of the wrong kidney. Clinicians encounter many distractions during their work. There is limited information on how these affect performance.

Concepts: Law, Performance, Distraction

8

To find objects of interest in a cluttered and continually changing visual environment, humans must often ignore salient stimuli that are not currently relevant to the task at hand. Recent neuroimaging results indicate that the ability to prevent salience-driven distraction depends on the current level of attentional control activity in frontal cortex, but the specific mechanism by which this control activity prevents salience-driven distraction is still poorly understood. Here, we asked whether salience-driven distraction is prevented by suppressing salient distractors or by preferentially up-weighting the relevant visual dimension. We found that salient distractors were suppressed even when they resided in the same feature dimension as the target (that is, when dimensional weighting was not a viable selection strategy). Our neurophysiological measure of suppression-the PD component of the event-related potential-was associated with variations in the amount of time it took to perform the search task: distractors triggered the PD on fast-response trials, but on slow-response trials they triggered activity associated with working memory representation instead. These results demonstrate that during search salience-driven distraction is mitigated by a suppressive mechanism that reduces the salience of potentially distracting visual objects.

Concepts: Attention, Cognitive psychology, Neuroscience, Frontal lobe, Suppression, Suppression of dissent, Distraction, Attention span

6

Distractions and multitasking are generally detrimental to learning and memory. Nevertheless, people often study while listening to music, sitting in noisy coffee shops, or intermittently checking their e-mail. The current experiments examined how distractions and divided attention influence one’s ability to selectively remember valuable information. Participants studied lists of words that ranged in value from 1 to 10 points while completing a digit-detection task, while listening to music, or without distractions. Though participants recalled fewer words following digit detection than in the other conditions, there were no significant differences between conditions in terms of selectively remembering the most valuable words. Similar results were obtained across a variety of divided-attention tasks that stressed attention and working memory to different degrees, which suggests that people may compensate for divided-attention costs by selectively attending to the most valuable items and that factors that worsen memory do not necessarily impair the ability to selectively remember important information.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Difference, Value, Task, Distraction