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
Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US
01.12.2016 | Dartmouth College
Sustainable Development Goals lead to lower population growth
30.11.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine