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Title:Catching the mind's eye: the effect of internal distraction on external attention
Author(s):Windsor, Matthew
Director of Research:Simons, Daniel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Simons, Daniel
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Beck, Diane; Federmeier, Kara; Hummel, John E.; Lleras, Alejandro
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
visual attention
taboo words
internal attention
semantic incongruity
attention capture
auditory attention
speech processing
Abstract:Most studies of human attention focus on how individuals are able to allocate their attention to various perceptual sources in the environment. Yet, the internal processing of information, such as holding or manipulating information in working memory, speech comprehension, and long-term memory retrieval, are also attentionally demanding. If attention is to be conceptualized as a general pool of resources that gives processing priority to some sources over others, then both stimuli in the external and internal environments must both draw from this pool. Furthermore, if some externally sourced stimuli are able to capture attention due to their potential behavioral relevance, then the processing of significant internal information may be able to capture attention as well. The ability for speech to impact attention, specifically the processing of incongruous or highly meaningful speech, was investigated in a series of six experiments. Experiment 1 examined how one-liner jokes, a stimulus with affective qualities as well as the need to manipulate information, could impact performance on an unrelated visual attention task. Experiments 2 and 3 looked at how being presented with a semantically inconsistent word in a stream of non-sentential, category-consistent words could affect visual attention task performance. Experiments 4, 5, and 6 assessed the impact of hearing taboo words on visual task performance. Experiment 1 opened the door to the possibility of speech processing related visual attention disruption, with individuals showing reduced performance in a visual task when concurrently processing the punch-line of a joke. Experiments 2 and 3 revealed no visual task disruption as a result of hearing non-sentential, semantically incongruent information, and actually trended toward showing a slight performance boost when hearing category-inconsistent words. Auditory presentation of taboo words in Experiments 4, 5, and 6 was consistently able to disrupt performance on an unrelated visual attention task, delaying responses to visual targets when presented immediately following taboo words. As a whole, the current data suggest that when attention is split between the internal processing of auditory information and an external visual task, surprising or meaningful auditory information can impact visual attention and that the effects vary as a function of the nature of the surprising information.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Matthew Windsor
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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