Adam Barnas, Nnimnoabasi E. Essien, Graham Lang, Giuseppe G. Miranda, Christian L. Sutphin



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Vigilance can be defined as the sustained attention required in detecting transient and infrequent signals over an extended period of time (Warm, 2003). The current research defines these infrequent signals as critical signals in order to demonstrate that their appearance marks some kind of unfavorable event. Typically, these experiments focus on the display of either or both auditory and visual stimuli. However, in the study described here, two experiments study only auditory stimuli. The first experiment manipulates the duration of an auditory tone using two tones of equal loudness that last for different lengths of time. In this instance, the critical signal is the tone with the shorter duration. The second experiment manipulates the spatial location of auditory tones, using the same type of tone. Although, the tones are of equal duration, they are spatially presented at different locations in auditory space around the head of a perceiver. In this instance, the critical signal will be the tone that is off-center in relation to the head and heard mainly in one ear. The relevance of this research is that many professions (e.g., air traffic control) require sustained monitoring to detect changes in signals, including auditory tones. There is a potential for catastrophic events, such as the fatal crash of an airplane, if a critical auditory signal is missed by an air traffic controller. Therefore, studies of the factors affecting the monitoring of auditory signals will continue to focus on the ability of people to accurately perform sustained attention tasks.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Susan T. Davis

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium poster

Effects of Sustained Attention on Auditory Displays, Mental Workload, and Stress