Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UCL scientist develops a measure of distraction

30.05.2007
A scientific indicator of how easily distracted you are has been designed by a UCL (University College London) psychologist. It could be used as another assessment tool during the recruitment process and would have particular benefits in fields where employee distraction could lead to fatal errors.

People who are more easily distracted are at greater risk of being involved in accidents. Professor Nilli Lavie, UCL Psychology, who led the research published today in the Association for Psychological Science journal, said: “When you are easily distracted, you are more liable to do things like put your keys in the fridge or call out ‘come in’ when answering the phone. These are the more amusing consequences of distraction but distraction can have more serious implications. For example, it is known to be associated with a higher risk of being involved in various types of accidents such as car and workplace accidents.”

Some jobs – such as bus driver or pilot – put the employee in situations where the potential for distraction is very high and yet focused attention is crucial. This computer-based test, which measures subjects’ accuracy and reaction times when they are exposed to distractions, would effectively filter out any candidates who were easily distracted.

Professor Lavie said: “This test could act as another form of psychometric testing for employers who want to know how focused the staff they are hiring are likely to be. Some jobs can be undertaken very well even if you are prone to being distracted. For example, you can be a great scientist or writer and still be absent-minded! But there are many areas where productivity critically depends on the ability of staff to stay focused, yet current psychometric tests do not measure it.”

This test correlates with responses given to the ‘Cognitive Failures Questionnaire’, which predicts a person’s level of distractibility provided that the subject answers honestly. The questions include: “How often do you find you accidentally throw away the thing you want and keep what you meant to throw away – as in the example of throwing away the matchbox and putting the used match in your pocket?”

Professor Lavie said: “Relying on questionnaires to assess how easily distracted potential employees might be obviously has its downsides – people are not always honest about their negative attributes during interviews.

“People come away from our test thinking they’ve done really well and haven’t been distracted at all when in fact their response times increase and they tend to make more mistakes; showing that they have been distracted. So the test is objective and there’s no way of doctoring the results.”

61 subjects took a short computerised test during which letters, acting as distractions, flashed up on screen. The test involves finding the odd-one-out in a circular display of letters. For example, subjects had to find the letter X amongst similar letters such as H, M, K and Z; or, in the easier task, a letter X or N among Os. At the same time, letters were flashed on-screen outside the circle of letters to distract the participant from their task. Subjects were asked to ignore the distracter letters and focus on the odd-one-out in the circle of letters. They had to rapidly press the relevant key on a keyboard when they located the odd-one-out. This measures reaction times and the effects of distracters on performance.

The second finding in the paper showed that all people – whether they are generally easily distracted or not – were far less distracted when they were performing the more difficult task. Because the brain was loaded with information that was relevant to the task, there was no extra brain capacity for processing distracting information and so even people who are more easily distracted are able to focus all their attention on the task in hand.

Professor Lavie said: “This second finding shows that, even if you are more easily distracted than others, you can decrease your susceptibility to being distracted. This could have important implications for increasing attention and performance. I am currently working on specific applications for education that aim to improve attention in school pupils and reduce the likelihood of them being distracted both in class and when doing homework. We could make commercial applications of the distraction test available on demand.”

Alex Brew | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Illinois researchers researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected
21.02.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Polluted air may pollute our morality
08.02.2018 | Association for Psychological Science

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>