Finkbeiner, Kristin M., Wilson, Kyle M., Russell, Paul N. and Helton, William S. (2015) The effects of warning cues and attention capturing stimuli on the sustained attention to response task. Experimental Brain Research, 233 (4). pp. 1061-1068. ISSN 0014-4819

Performance on the sustained attention to response task (SART) is often characterized by a speed–accuracy trade-off, and SART performance may be influenced by strategic factors (Head and Helton Conscious Cogn 22: 913–919, 2013). Previous research indicates a significant difference between reliable and unreliable warning cues on response times and errors (commission and omission), suggesting that SART tasks are influenced by strategic factors (Helton et al. Conscious Cogn 20: 1732–1737, 2011; Exp Brain Res 209: 401–407, 2011). With regards to warning stimuli, we chose to use cute images (exhibiting infantile features) during a SART, as previous literature indicates cute images cause participants to engage attention. If viewing cute things makes the viewer exert more attention than normal, then exposure to cute stimuli during the SART should improve performance if SART performance is a measure of perceptual coupling. Reliable warning cues were shown to reduce both response time and errors of commission, and increase errors of omission, relative to unreliable warning cues. Cuteness of the warning stimuli, however, had no significant effect on SART performance. These results suggest the importance of strategic factors in SART performance, not increased attention, and add to the growing literature which suggests the SART is not a good measure of sustained attention, vigilance or perceptual coupling.