Validating a visual version of the metronome response task

  • Patrick Laflamme
  • Paul Seli
  • Daniel Smilek


The metronome response task (MRT)—a sustained-attention task that requires participants to produce a response in synchrony with an audible metronome—was recently developed to index response variability in the context of studies on mind wandering. In the present studies, we report on the development and validation of a visual version of the MRT (the visual metronome response task; vMRT), which uses the rhythmic presentation of visual, rather than auditory, stimuli. Participants completed the vMRT (Studies 1 and 2) and the original (auditory-based) MRT (Study 2) while also responding to intermittent thought probes asking them to report the depth of their mind wandering. The results showed that (1) individual differences in response variability during the vMRT are highly reliable; (2) prior to thought probes, response variability increases with increasing depth of mind wandering; (3) response variability is highly consistent between the vMRT and the original MRT; and (4) both response variability and depth of mind wandering increase with increasing time on task. Our results indicate that the original MRT findings are consistent across the visual and auditory modalities, and that the response variability measured in both tasks indexes a non-modality-specific tendency toward behavioral variability. The vMRT will be useful in the place of the MRT in experimental contexts in which researchers’ designs require a visual-based primary task.


Mind wandering Sustained Attention MRT vMRT Metronome Response Task 


Author note

This research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant to D.S. (Grant Number 06459), and by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to P.S.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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