Steven A. Bare, Adam Barnas, Brittany L. Bernard, Nnimnoabasi E. Essien, Christian L. Sutphin



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Vigilance, or sustained attention, typically requires observers to monitor for infrequent critical signals over extended periods of time (Warm, 2003). Critical signals are presented differently than the more frequent neutral signals that we experience in perception and are typically indications of impending danger that demand attention. Past research has proposed that the decline in vigilance as an attention task continues for some time and is caused by mindlessness, or withdrawal of attention from the monitoring task (Robertson et al., 1997). The present research investigates the ability to detect changes in visual stimuli. Participants will be presented with sets of stimuli containing four arrows facing the same clockwise or counter-clockwise direction in a circle. Participants will respond when a set has one arrow facing the opposite direction from the other three. In addition, participants will be queried about their confidence in the accuracy of their detections. Our expectation is consistent with the typical decline in attention over monitoring time; that is, confidence will also diminish as the vigilance task continues. The results of the present study can be applied to any situation requiring sustained monitoring of informational displays. For example, pilots and technicians are required to monitor streams of visual and auditory stimuli for prolonged periods of time where the consequence of not detecting a critical signal could be catastrophic. Understanding more about vigilance processes can help avoid disaster.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Susan T. Davis

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Performance and Assessment of Accuracy in a Visual Sustained Attention Task