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Do cognitive load and ADHD traits affect the tendency to prioritise social information in scenes?

Martinez-Cedillo, Astrid Priscilla and Dent, Kevin and Foulsham, Tom (2021) 'Do cognitive load and ADHD traits affect the tendency to prioritise social information in scenes?' Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. p. 174702182110664. ISSN 1747-0218

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We report two experiments investigating the effect of working memory (WM) load on selective attention. Experiment 1 was a modified version of Lavie et al. (2004) and confirmed that increasing memory load disrupted performance in the classic flanker task. Experiment 2 used the same manipulation of WM load to probe attention during the viewing of complex scenes, while also investigating individual differences in ADHD traits. In the image viewing task, we measured the degree to which fixations targeted each of two crucial objects: (1) a social object (a person in the scene) and (2) a non-social object of higher or lower physical salience. We compared the extent to which increasing WM load would change the pattern of viewing of the physically salient and socially salient objects. If attending to the social item requires greater default voluntary top-down resources, then the viewing of social objects should show stronger modulation by WM load compared to viewing of physically salient objects. The results showed that the social object was fixated to a greater degree than the other object (regardless of physical saliency). Increased saliency drew fixations away from the background leading to slightly increased fixations on the non-social object, without changing fixations on the social object. Increased levels of ADHD-like traits were associated with fewer fixations on the social object, but only in the high salient, low load condition. Importantly, WM load did not affect number of fixations on the social object. Such findings suggest rather surprisingly that attending to a social area in complex stimuli is not dependent on the availability of voluntary top-down resources.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: cognitive load; working memory; saliency; social information; ADHD traits
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2021 14:22
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2022 15:29

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