Reliable- and unreliable-warning cues in the Sustained Attention to Response Task

William S Helton, James Head, Paul N Russell
Experimental Brain Research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation Cérébrale 2011, 209 (3): 401-7
The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) is a Go-No-Go signal detection task developed to measure lapses of attention. In this study, we examined the impact that warning signals, reliable and unreliable, have on SART performance. Eighteen participants performed a no-warning, reliable-warning, or unreliable-warning SART. Response times were faster, errors of commission lower, but errors of omission higher in the reliable-warning SART in comparison with the no-warning or unreliable-warning SART. There was a significant negative correlation between participants' errors of commission rate and their response times in the unreliable-warning and no-warning SART. This correlation was reduced in the reliable-warning SART. Making the task perceptually easier reduces the errors of commission, in contradiction to the mindlessness perspective, and reduces the speed-accuracy trade-off. These results, overall, support the view that the SART is primarily a measure of response strategy, not sustained attention per se.

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