Experimentally induced distraction impacts cognitive but not emotional processes in think-aloud cognitive assessment

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Abstract

Studies have examined the impact of distraction on basic task performance (e.g., working memory, motor responses), yet research is lacking regarding its impact in the domain of think-aloud cognitive assessment, where the threat to assessment validity is high. The Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situations think-aloud cognitive assessment paradigm was employed to address this issue. Participants listened to scenarios under three conditions (i.e., while answering trivia questions, playing a visual puzzle game, or with no experimental distractor). Their articulated thoughts were then content-analyzed both by the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) program and by content analysis of emotion and cognitive processes conducted by trained coders. Distraction did not impact indices of emotion but did affect cognitive processes. Specifically, with the LIWC system, the trivia questions distraction condition resulted in significantly higher proportions of insight and causal words, and higher frequencies of non-fluencies (e.g., "uh" or "umm") and filler words (e.g., "like" or "you know"). Coder-rated content analysis found more disengagement and more misunderstanding particularly in the trivia questions distraction condition. A better understanding of how distraction disrupts the amount and type of cognitive engagement holds important implications for future studies employing cognitive assessment methods.

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Hsu, K. J., Babeva, K. N., Feng, M. C., Hummer, J. F., & Davison, G. C. (2014). Experimentally induced distraction impacts cognitive but not emotional processes in think-aloud cognitive assessment. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(MAY). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00474

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