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Distracting the mind improves performance: an ERP Study.

Wierda SM, van Rijn H, Taatgen NA, Martens S - PLoS ONE (2010)

Bottom Line: However, the AB can be reduced substantially when participants are distracted during the task, for instance by a concurrent task, without a cost for T1 performance.AB magnitude in the latter task was significantly smaller, whereas behavioral performance in the standard and grey dots tasks did not differ.The present findings bring us a step closer in understanding why and how an AB occurs, and how these temporal restrictions in selective attention can be overcome.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Neuroimaging Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. s.m.wierda@med.umcg.nl

ABSTRACT

Background: When a second target (T2) is presented in close succession of a first target (T1), people often fail to identify T2, a phenomenon known as the attentional blink (AB). However, the AB can be reduced substantially when participants are distracted during the task, for instance by a concurrent task, without a cost for T1 performance. The goal of the current study was to investigate the electrophysiological correlates of this paradoxical effect.

Methodology/principal findings: Participants successively performed three tasks, while EEG was recorded. The first task (standard AB) consisted of identifying two target letters in a sequential stream of distractor digits. The second task (grey dots task) was similar to the first task with the addition of an irrelevant grey dot moving in the periphery, concurrent with the central stimulus stream. The third task (red dot task) was similar to the second task, except that detection of an occasional brief color change in the moving grey dot was required. AB magnitude in the latter task was significantly smaller, whereas behavioral performance in the standard and grey dots tasks did not differ. Using mixed effects models, electrophysiological activity was compared during trials in the grey dots and red dot tasks that differed in task instruction but not in perceptual input. In the red dot task, both target-related parietal brain activity associated with working memory updating (P3) as well as distractor-related occipital activity was significantly reduced.

Conclusions/significance: The results support the idea that the AB might (at least partly) arise from an overinvestment of attentional resources or an overexertion of attentional control, which is reduced when a distracting secondary task is carried out. The present findings bring us a step closer in understanding why and how an AB occurs, and how these temporal restrictions in selective attention can be overcome.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Grand averages of Pz on lag 8 correct trials for the grey dots (dashed line) and red dot (solid line) task.
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pone-0015024-g002: Grand averages of Pz on lag 8 correct trials for the grey dots (dashed line) and red dot (solid line) task.

Mentions: Figure 2 shows the grand averages of activity at Pz during lag 8 trials, given that T1 and T2 were both correctly identified. The P3 activity of both T1 and T2 was analyzed using a mixed effect model. Task (Grey dots or Red dot) and Target (T1 or T2) were entered in the model as fixed factors. As in the analyses of the behavioral data, Subject was entered as a random factor. The estimates of the model are listed in Table 3. In the model, there was a significant effect of the red dot task. Whenever participants were engaged in the red dot task, P3 mean activity was lower than in the grey dots task. To determine whether the decrement in activity was specific for the P3 component, a second analysis was performed with a baseline from −200 to the onset of the P3 component (i.e. 680 ms). Again, there was a significant difference in P3 amplitude between the grey dots task and the red dot task (t = −3.386, p = 0.000), suggesting that there was indeed a target-specific decrement in activity on top of a possible overall reduction in activity. A separate repeated measures ANOVA on the P3 peak latencies of the first target with Task as within-subjects factor did not reveal any significant difference between the tasks (F<1).


Distracting the mind improves performance: an ERP Study.

Wierda SM, van Rijn H, Taatgen NA, Martens S - PLoS ONE (2010)

Grand averages of Pz on lag 8 correct trials for the grey dots (dashed line) and red dot (solid line) task.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2991328&req=5

pone-0015024-g002: Grand averages of Pz on lag 8 correct trials for the grey dots (dashed line) and red dot (solid line) task.
Mentions: Figure 2 shows the grand averages of activity at Pz during lag 8 trials, given that T1 and T2 were both correctly identified. The P3 activity of both T1 and T2 was analyzed using a mixed effect model. Task (Grey dots or Red dot) and Target (T1 or T2) were entered in the model as fixed factors. As in the analyses of the behavioral data, Subject was entered as a random factor. The estimates of the model are listed in Table 3. In the model, there was a significant effect of the red dot task. Whenever participants were engaged in the red dot task, P3 mean activity was lower than in the grey dots task. To determine whether the decrement in activity was specific for the P3 component, a second analysis was performed with a baseline from −200 to the onset of the P3 component (i.e. 680 ms). Again, there was a significant difference in P3 amplitude between the grey dots task and the red dot task (t = −3.386, p = 0.000), suggesting that there was indeed a target-specific decrement in activity on top of a possible overall reduction in activity. A separate repeated measures ANOVA on the P3 peak latencies of the first target with Task as within-subjects factor did not reveal any significant difference between the tasks (F<1).

Bottom Line: However, the AB can be reduced substantially when participants are distracted during the task, for instance by a concurrent task, without a cost for T1 performance.AB magnitude in the latter task was significantly smaller, whereas behavioral performance in the standard and grey dots tasks did not differ.The present findings bring us a step closer in understanding why and how an AB occurs, and how these temporal restrictions in selective attention can be overcome.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Neuroimaging Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. s.m.wierda@med.umcg.nl

ABSTRACT

Background: When a second target (T2) is presented in close succession of a first target (T1), people often fail to identify T2, a phenomenon known as the attentional blink (AB). However, the AB can be reduced substantially when participants are distracted during the task, for instance by a concurrent task, without a cost for T1 performance. The goal of the current study was to investigate the electrophysiological correlates of this paradoxical effect.

Methodology/principal findings: Participants successively performed three tasks, while EEG was recorded. The first task (standard AB) consisted of identifying two target letters in a sequential stream of distractor digits. The second task (grey dots task) was similar to the first task with the addition of an irrelevant grey dot moving in the periphery, concurrent with the central stimulus stream. The third task (red dot task) was similar to the second task, except that detection of an occasional brief color change in the moving grey dot was required. AB magnitude in the latter task was significantly smaller, whereas behavioral performance in the standard and grey dots tasks did not differ. Using mixed effects models, electrophysiological activity was compared during trials in the grey dots and red dot tasks that differed in task instruction but not in perceptual input. In the red dot task, both target-related parietal brain activity associated with working memory updating (P3) as well as distractor-related occipital activity was significantly reduced.

Conclusions/significance: The results support the idea that the AB might (at least partly) arise from an overinvestment of attentional resources or an overexertion of attentional control, which is reduced when a distracting secondary task is carried out. The present findings bring us a step closer in understanding why and how an AB occurs, and how these temporal restrictions in selective attention can be overcome.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus