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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relationship between intelligence and attention in kindergarten children Carter, John D.


The purpose of this study was to compare two conflicting theoretical perspectives on the relationship between intelligence and sustained attention. The cognitive resources theory assumes that lower IQ subjects are required to allocate greater amounts of their limited attentional resources during information-processing tasks than higher IQ subjects. The arousal theory assumes that there is an optimal level of arousal associated with task performance, and that an increase or decrease in arousal produces impairment in performance. Additionally the arousal theory predicts that increased time on task leads to a decrement in arousal as a function of IQ levels. Signal detection theory applications were used to operationalize and compare the two theories. Specifically, the signal detection parameters of sensory acuity ( d’), the decision criterion (a), correct detections, and false alarms were used to determine subject performance across three time periods ( 2, 4, and 6 mm.) on a visual continuous performance task. Twenty-nine teacher-nominated at-risk for learning difficulties and twenty-nine normally achieving kindergarten students were adminstered the Stanford-Binet:Fourth Edition (SB:FE) and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised (WPPSI.R), as well as the Gordon Diagnostic System (GDS) Vigilance Task. The GDS is a standardized behaviour-based measure of sustained attention. The results of this study were interpreted as suggesting that ability group differences reflect attentional capacity. Two findings were important in this interpretation. First, regardless of IQ, the groups varied on the signal detection discrimination index. Second, these measures did not vary over time in either group. Thus, the arousal theory was not supported. IQ and attention intercorrelation patterns were higher for the at-risk group compared to the normally achieving group. Exploratory maximum-likelihood factor analyses indicated that intelligence plays a greater role in relation to vigilance for the at-risk for learning difficulties group than the normal achieving group.

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