The Attentional Boost Effect: Transient increases in attention to one task enhance performance in a second task

Khena M. Swallow, Yuhong V Jiang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    87 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Recent work on event perception suggests that perceptual processing increases when events change. An important question is how such changes influence the way other information is processed, particularly during dual-task performance. In this study, participants monitored a long series of distractor items for an occasional target as they simultaneously encoded unrelated background scenes. The appearance of an occasional target could have two opposite effects on the secondary task: It could draw attention away from the second task, or, as a change in the ongoing event, it could improve secondary task performance. Results were consistent with the second possibility. Memory for scenes presented simultaneously with the targets was better than memory for scenes that preceded or followed the targets. This effect was observed when the primary detection task involved visual feature oddball detection, auditory oddball detection, and visual color-shape conjunction detection. It was eliminated when the detection task was omitted, and when it required an arbitrary response mapping. The appearance of occasional, task-relevant events appears to trigger a temporal orienting response that facilitates processing of concurrently attended information (Attentional Boost Effect).

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)118-132
    Number of pages15
    JournalCognition
    Volume115
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 2010

    Keywords

    • Attention
    • Dual-task performance
    • Memory
    • Perception

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