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Title: Trade-offs between focused and distributed temporal attention
Author: David, Raluca
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 4944
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Humans and other animals are faced with a continuous trade-off between exploiting the current task goal and continuing to explore or monitor their environment to identify new opportunities or threats. The exploitation-exploration dilemma has been investigated in a broad range of fields from animal foraging to machine learning to human decision- making. Often, trade-offs in human behaviour occur on a moment-by-moment basis, between focusing one's attention and distributing one's attention. Although it has been traditionally believed that attention is 'good' when selective and focused, it is increasingly becoming acknowledged that this is not always the case and that there are occasions when distributed attention is optimal instead. This thesis develops the Attentional Blink-Illusory Conjunctions paradigm as a new experimental context to study distributed and focused attention in time comparatively in visually identical tasks. The thesis sets out to investigate trade-offs between focused and distributed temporal attention using the novel paradigm in a series of 9 experiments. To test how attention states trade off, manipulations known to either enhance attentional focus or to broaden attention are used. Furthermore, the dissociable association between mind wandering and focused vs. distributed temporal attention is analysed in a series of experiments. The neural correlates of the focused-distributed attention trade-off are also investigated using electroencephalogram (EEG) methods. A key strand of work in this thesis investigates how attention trades off in terms of individual differences. The hypothesis that some people have a more focused attentional style and others have a more distributed attentional style is tested both in the blocked version of the Attentional Blink-Illusory Conjunctions paradigm used throughout the thesis, as well as in a non-blocked version introduced in the final experiment. The non-blocked paradigm variation that concludes the thesis provides a context to analyse how attentional states fluctuate, and furthermore exemplifies the potential of the Attentional Blink-Illusory Conjunctions paradigm as an experimental context that can be flexibly adapted to test a wide range of hypotheses regarding trade-offs in temporal attention.
Supervisor: Yeung, Nick Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available