Posts Tagged ‘ Attention ’

Multi-Task Supers: What’s so Special about These People?

There is a glut of evidence that shows divided attention leads to decreased performance. Using a cellular phones and texting while driving have been particularly hot news topics, one of our own bloggers posted on this recently (link). But even more recently several news outlets (Nat. Geo., Time, MSNBC) have run articles about a new study showing a small group of people that can ACTUALLY multi-task without performance detriments.

Who are these Supertaskers? and what’s so special about them? Strayer had this to say about this specialness during one interview:

There is clearly something special about the supertaskers. Why can they do something that most of us cannot? Psychologists may need to rethink what they know about multitasking in light of this new evidence. We may learn from these very rare individuals that the multitasking regions of the brain are different and that there may be a genetic basis for this difference.

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The Angry Face and the Socially Phobic Adult

The angry face and the socially phobic adult: The time course of attention


The above poster is based on the article “The time-course of attention to emotional faces in social phobia” (Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 41, p. 39-44). There were two groups in this study, SP (Socially Phobic adults) and NP (Non-phobic adults, the control group). Each group viewed faces and objects on  a computer monitor while an eye tracking device recorded their eye movement. Participants were instructed to look wherever they liked.

The hypothesis was that socially phobic adults would show an early bias toward negative faces on face-face trials and would avoid faces in favor of objects on face-object trials. Face-face pairs consisted of angry and happy faces paired with a neutral face, and the face-object pairs were angry, happy and neutral faces paired with objects (like a vacuum, phone, lamp, table).

The results indicated support for the hypothesis. Socially phobic adults show an early bias towards negative faces, which can clearly be seen in this graph:

The focus of the article was on the left half of the above graph compared to the right graph. You can see that socially phobic adults fixated on angry faces more than the control group.  It’s also clear that the socially phobic adults and the control group fixated on happy faces more equally.  So the question that Professor Arnell asked me was: do you think socially phobic adults fixate more on angry faces, or is it just that most people typically avoid looking at negative faces?  It’s clear from the article that they thought the most interesting part of their data was socially phobic adults fixating on the negative faces.  However, this might not be the case.

Something that was either missed or just not added in is that it’s more interesting to look at the control group data in this graph.  There’s such a huge difference between the control group’s number of fixations on the happy faces compared to the angry faces, that it’s probably more likely that most people just avoid looking at negative stimulus.

– Posted by Alyssa Pilkington

It’s About Time

Two new mentions of psychological science in the news, both about time.

In the first, when people are asked think about the future or the past the tend to either lean forward or backward respectively (link to New York Times article, link to short article in Psych. Science). This new study is couched in the area of research known as embodied cognition (or grounded cognition). Researchers at Texas A&M University have also found that when participants lie back reclined they tend to have a broader attentional focus, and sitting forward leads to narrower attentional focus (as measured by the Navon Letter task).

The second mention is an interview with Baylor professor, David Eagleman, about his research on time and the subjective feeling that time flies as we age (link, complete with audio! and a video with Homer Simpson!). Prof. Eagleman argues that the present isn’t any “faster” than the past, its just that the past, and novel experiences in general, are encoded more richly and thus “reading them back gives you a feeling that they must have taken forever.”

-Posted by Tyler