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Sustained Attention Ability Affects Simple Picture Naming

Jongman, S. R. (2017). Sustained Attention Ability Affects Simple Picture Naming. Collabra: Psychology, 3(1): 17. doi:10.1525/collabra.84.
Sustained attention has previously been shown as a requirement for language production. However, this is mostly evident for difficult conditions, such as a dual-task situation. The current study provides corroborating evidence that this relationship holds even for simple picture naming. Sustained attention ability, indexed both by participants’ reaction times and individuals’ hit rate (the proportion of correctly detected targets) on a digit discrimination task, correlated with picture naming latencies. Individuals with poor sustained attention were consistently slower and their RT distributions were more positively skewed when naming pictures compared to individuals with better sustained attention. Additionally, the need to sustain attention was manipulated by changing the speed of stimulus presentation. Research has suggested that fast event rates tax sustained attention resources to a larger degree than slow event rates. However, in this study the fast event rate did not result in increased difficulty, neither for the picture naming task nor for the sustained attention task. Instead, the results point to a speed-accuracy trade-off in the sustained attention task (lower accuracy but faster responses in the fast than in the slow event rate), and to a benefit for faster rates in the picture naming task (shorter naming latencies with no difference in accuracy). Performance on both tasks was largely comparable, supporting previous findings that sustained attention is called upon during language production
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