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Title:The metacognition of attention: Using self-scheduled breaks to improve sustained attention
Author(s):Patel, Trisha N.
Director of Research:Benjamin, Aaron S
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Benjamin, Aaron S
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Beck, Diane; Dell, Gary; Steyvers, Mark; Wang, Frances
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):memory, attention, metacognition
Abstract:Attention fluctuates over time and is prone to fatigue. Thus, maintaining sustained attention is difficult. The goal of the current set of experiments is to examine how allowing users control over the pacing of an ongoing attention-demanding task can help individuals maintain attention in the face of fluctuations and fatigue. Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 examined if control over the location and duration of breaks can improve performance. Breaks were found to provide a small localized benefit in performance, regardless of whether that break was self-administered or imposed by the experimenter. However, it did not benefit performance over the course of the entire experimental session. Experiment 3 and 4 gave subjects full control over the onset of each trial, allowing them to regulate the presentation of the stimuli with respect to their own attentional state. In contrast to the first two experiments, subjects who self-paced stimuli outperformed yoked controls. This result provides a good experimental demonstration of successful control of metacognitive regulation of attention. Experiment 5 replicated this finding and also demonstrated that the benefit of self-pacing was diminished under dual-task conditions. Experiment 6 and 7 explored the mechanism behind self-pacing using perceptual processing of task-relevant and task-irrelevant information. Self-pacing did not benefit the processing of stimuli, in these experiments, making it impossible to evaluate the question of how metacognitive control differentially affected attention to task-relevant and task-irrelevant stimuli. In the final set of experiments, self-pacing was implemented to assess working memory capacity. Working memory performance was not increased under self-paced conditions. The benefits of metacognitive control on attention appear to be real but limited to very short durations. Nonetheless, there are important implications for real-world sustained attention tasks like security monitoring and student attention in online learning.
Issue Date:2020-12-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Trisha Patel
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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