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A Basic Evaluation of Distraction
AuthorNosik, Melissa R.
AdvisorWilliams, Wilfred L.
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AbstractThe author developed and applied a laboratory preparation to evaluate the effects of distraction on performance under varying conditions. "Distraction" occurs when there is suppression in the frequency of a response. There are often contextual stimuli in the environment that prompt responding despite having no prior or specific stimulus control over that response. There are also stimuli that prompt observing responses but not directly competing responses. The current study specifically investigates types of distracting stimuli which exert stimulus control and prompt directly competing responses that interrupt responding, as well as those which prompt observing responses but do not necessarily prompt a competing response. Training approaches are typically validated when successful under conditions present in the natural environment; previous research on distraction demonstrates difficulty controlling and isolating the relevant variables in that context. This laboratory preparation uses sensitive measurement systems such as the Standard Celeration Chart and the cumulative record to observe moment to moment responding as distractions are introduced. It also allows for quantitative evaluations across and within different modalities of distractors. Although further analyses are warranted, prediction of behavior under "distracting" conditions has been accomplished here in a way that has not been accomplished previously. Data indicate that distractors which directly compete for stimulus control with response requirements for a task at hand result in the greatest response suppression. Stimuli that did not prompt a response that directly competed for stimulus control had less suppressive effects on responding.