Individual Differences in Attentional Flexibility.
OREGON UNIV EUGENE DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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This report describes a preliminary study that attempts to develop the concept of attentional flexibility. Flexibility refers to the rapidity with which set or attention can be switched from one signal requiring attention to another. If a trait exists, then people who can rapidly switch set on one task should be able to rapidly switch set in a different kind of setting. The existence of such a trait could ultimately be very useful as a predictor of performance on a variety of skilled tasks, and some evidence for that has been found by Kahneman, Gopher, and colleagues. We studied flexibility on four tasks 1 The difficulty in dealing with an unexpected signal after just being primed for another 2 The difficulty in dealing with a rarely occurring event that occurs in the context of much more frequent events 3 The ability to prepare for signals in another category immediately after responding to a signal in a different category, even when the need for preparation is predictable and 4 The ability to switch attention from one dichotic message to another. This preliminary study provides some promise for the concept of flexibility, so we are currently engaged in follow-up studies. Author