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Your attention please: 'Rewarding' objects can't be ignored
Date:6/7/2011

at a sign advertising happy hour at a bar might snag the attention of a recovering alcoholic driving by. Understanding the psychological and brain mechanisms of that reward-object pairing and why some people are more susceptible to it than others could lead to more effective treatments."

The article is available online here: http://tinyurl.com/6xmwqk4

In the study, people first searched for red or green circles in an array of many differently colored circles displayed on a computer screen. One color (for instance, red) was always followed by a monetary reward (10 cents) and the other (perhaps green) by a smaller reward (1 cent). After doing this for more than an hour, the study subjects then were asked to search for particular shapes (for instance, a circle among diamonds) and color was no longer relevant or rewarded. Still, occasionally, one of the items in the display was red or green. When that happened, the study subjects' responses slowed down.

According to Yantis, this proved that an overwhelming number of people in the study became distracted by the red or green objects, even though the study subjects had been instructed to ignore those items and the items were inconspicuous and had no relevance to the task at hand.

"It was clear to us that those red or green items had become valuable to the study subjects, because they were linked in their minds with a reward," Yantis said.

In addition, the study subjects also completed a questionnaire measuring impulsivity. The team found that people who were more impulsive to begin with were even more prone to distraction by the "high value" red or green objects.

"One measure of good cognitive control is how long a person can hold information in his or her short-term memory, and we found that those people who were less impulsive tended to be more resistant to distraction by those things that had no value in and of themse
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Contact: Lisa DeNike
Lde@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert  

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