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Title: Distraction, attentional capture and mind-wandering : the role of perceptual load and individual differences
Author: Forster, S. C.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis examines the factors (e.g., task load, distractor features, or individual differences) that determine the extent to which individuals are distracted and the manner in which these factors interact. In particular, established theories of attention are applied to two understudied forms of distraction common to daily life: distraction by entirely task-irrelevant external stimuli and internal distraction from unintentional task-unrelated thoughts (i.e. mind-wandering). The experiments reported in this thesis establish a new measure of distraction by entirely task-irrelevant stimuli, drawing on the attentional capture literature to demonstrate that this form of distraction can occur in the absence of any top down attentional settings relating to the distractor or task features. It is also demonstrated that both of this form of distraction and also mindwandering can be modulated by the level of perceptual task-load – an established determinant of other forms of distractor processing. In this manner the thesis integrates two previously separate bodies of literature on selective attention and mind-wandering. In addition, individual differences in both internal and external forms of distraction are shown to be correlated, suggesting a common underlying trait influencing susceptibility to distraction both from internal sources (in the form of mind-wandering) and from external task-irrelevant distractor stimuli.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available