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Sustained attention in language production: An individual differences investigation

Jongman, S. R., Roelofs, A., & Meyer, A. S. (2015). Sustained attention in language production: An individual differences investigation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68, 710-730. doi:10.1080/17470218.2014.964736.
Whereas it has long been assumed that most linguistic processes underlying language production happen automatically, accumulating evidence suggests that some form of attention is required. Here, we investigated the contribution of sustained attention, which is the ability to maintain alertness over time. First, the sustained attention ability of participants was measured using auditory and visual continuous performance tasks. Next, the participants described pictures using simple noun phrases while their response times (RTs) and gaze durations were measured. Earlier research has suggested that gaze duration reflects language planning processes up to and including phonological encoding. Individual differences in sustained attention ability correlated with individual differences in the magnitude of the tail of the RT distribution, reflecting the proportion of very slow responses, but not with individual differences in gaze duration. These results suggest that language production requires sustained attention, especially after phonological encoding.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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