Some EEG Correlates of Sustained Attention
This paper reports two studies of EEG correlates of sustained attention. In the first, signal ratios are varied in a situation in which overall event rate is constant. The EEG is shown to be sensitive to time, signal ratios, and individual differences in performance. The second study measures the effects of coaction in a Bakan-type task in which subjects perform alone or in pairs, are males or females, friends or strangers, working merely together but on different schedules of the same task or working in direct competition to the same schedule. Both performance and EEG data reflect the influence of the key variables manipulated.
Reasons for the current dissatisfaction with the EEG’s usefulness as a dependent variable in psychological research are considered, as are means of improving EEG research in general and in vigilance-and sustained attention-type tasks in particular. It appears from the data presented that different EEG waveforms are differentially sensitive to various task and situational treatments within the waking state. In particular, it is shown that tasks which contain either a large short-term memory component or a response competition element are likely to confuse the vigilance literature since such characteristics call for lowered arousal if performance is to be successful, whereas, traditionally, superior performance in vigilance tasks is associated with heightened arousal. A multistage model of experimental arousal is briefly considered and attention is drawn to possible sources of error in measurement if aspects of the model are ignored. It is concluded that the EEG is at least as good a psychophysiological index of arousal as are some of the more popular measures (heart rate, electro-dermal activity, slow potentials, etc.) and that the EEG is capable of generating some data of relevance to vigilance research.
KeywordsSustained Attention Skin Conductance Signal Ratio Response Competition Vigilance Task
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