Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dominic Valentino

Abstract

This research project presented and tested a theoretical model of auditory sustained attention. The model includes the personal, or subject characteristics that are believed to influence a person's ability to sustain attention. These characteristics are positive affect, negative affect, motivation, arousal, and concentration. Auditory sustained attention is represented by performance on a computerized continuous performance test (CPT); the CPT is widely used in both research and clinical settings. Three hundred and eleven participants were recruited for this study. Data from 286 of them were included in these analyses. All participants received some form of course credit for their participation. The measurement instruments used in this study include several paper and pencil tasks as well as an auditory CPT. Structural equation modeling methodology was used to analyze the plausibility of the hypothesized model of attention as well as several sub-models, each containing a subpart of the hypothesized model. The results revealed several strengths as well as weaknesses of the model. Overall, across the models tested, the hypothesized model seemed to best represent the cognitive process in question. An important finding was that the construct Arousal seemed to be well defined (58% of the variance was accounted for) by three rather simple paper and pencil tasks. This construct has always been considered difficult to measure, thus the findings of this study may be very useful in this regard. The model, while not conclusive, provides important information about the proposed elements that work together to sustain attention, as well as for the specific measures used in this model to represent those elements. Future studies are needed to refine and improve on the measures so that the constructs will be better represented and understood.

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