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The effects of real-time performance feedback and performance emphasis on the sustained attention to response task (SART)

Abstract

The sustained attention to response task (SART) has been used for over 20 years to assess participants’ response times and inability to withhold to No-Go stimuli (commission errors). While there is debate in the literature regarding what causes commissions errors in the SART, there is agreement the SART is subject to a speed-accuracy trade-off (SATO). Researchers have demonstrated that performance on the SART can be influenced by directive instructions to participants to prioritize either speed or accuracy during the task. In the present study, we investigated whether real-time performance feedback and whether feedback emphasis (emphasizing speed or accuracy) affected participants’ response times and accuracy. We found performance feedback per se had no impact on performance, but performance emphasis did affect performance, apparently shifting the SATO. This finding provides further evidence that the commission errors in the SART are not indicative of sustained attention or vigilance as those terms are commonly used in the literature, but more likely assess response strategy and motor control (or lack of motor control). These findings have implications for the psychological assessment literature, as well as applied areas where SART findings have been utilized such as shoot/no-shoot decision making.

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Data availability

The dataset generated and analyzed during the current study is available in the OSF.io repository, https://mfr.osf.io/render?url=https://osf.io/bc97f/?direct%26mode=render%26action=download%26mode=render.

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Correspondence to Justin M. Mensen.

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All the research plans were reviewed and approved by the GMU Institutional Review Board (IRB). All the participants completed an informed consent form prior to beginning of the study and the collected data contained no personally identifiable data.

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Mensen, J.M., Dang, J.S., Stets, A.J. et al. The effects of real-time performance feedback and performance emphasis on the sustained attention to response task (SART). Psychological Research (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01602-6

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