On the use of a concurrent memory load to measure attention and automaticity

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Abstract

The concurrent-memory-load technique identifies attention demands with interactions between reaction-time-task parameters and the size of the load. Three experiments with a total of 18 undergraduates are reported in which a multiple-choice reaction time task involving 2, 4, and 8 stimulus-response (S) alternatives was performed alone and in the retention interval of a short-term memory task involving ordered recall of 8 digits. In Exp I assignment of stimulus letters to response buttons (S mapping) was consistent for 6 days but varied on the 7th. Memory load and number of alternatives interacted early in practice, but the interaction diminished over days, and the effects were additive on Day 6. When the S mapping changed on Day 7, the interaction returned. In Exp II, S mapping varied daily for 6 days, and the interaction remained stable throughout practice. In Exp III, S mapping was consistent for 6 days and varied on the 7th, but the memory task was not introduced until Days 6 and 7. The interaction between memory load and number of alternatives was stronger on Day 7, after the mapping had changed, than it was on Day 6, after practice with consistent mapping. (69 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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