Absent-mindedness: Lapses of conscious awareness and everyday cognitive failures

James Allan Cheyne, Jonathan S A Carriere, Daniel Smilek
Consciousness and Cognition 2006, 15 (3): 578-92
A brief self-report scale was developed to assess everyday performance failures arising directly or primarily from brief failures of sustained attention (attention-related cognitive errors-ARCES). The ARCES was found to be associated with a more direct measure of propensity to attention lapses (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale--MAAS) and to errors on an existing behavioral measure of sustained attention (Sustained Attention to Response Task--SART). Although the ARCES and MAAS were highly correlated, structural modelling revealed the ARCES was more directly related to SART errors and the MAAS to SART RTs, which have been hypothesized to directly reflect the lapses of attention that lead to SART errors. Thus, the MAAS and SART RTs appear to directly reflect attention lapses, whereas the ARCES and SART errors reflect the mistakes these lapses are thought to cause. Boredom proneness was also assessed by the BPS, as a separate consequence of a propensity to attention lapses. Although the ARCES was significantly associated with the BPS, this association was entirely accounted for by the MAAS, suggesting that performance errors and boredom are separate consequences of lapses in attention. A tendency to even extraordinarily brief attention lapses on the order of milliseconds may have far-reaching consequences not only for safe and efficient task performance but also for sustaining the motivation to persist in and enjoy these tasks.

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