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Predicting individual differences in distractibility Aks, Deborah June


Little is known about what makes one individual distractible while another is not. This study approaches this problem by assessing the effectiveness of various personality, arousal, intelligence and subjective report variables as predictors of how one will respond to the presence of distractors during a speeded visual search task. The inability to screen out stimuli which are independent of the targeted task defines distractibility. The search task used here, involving item matching under speeded conditions, was administered to 308 subjects under visual and auditory distractor conditions. Each predictor of distractibility is treated as a separate subexperiment for purposes of clarity. Measures of state and trait arousal as well as subjective reports of distractibility were ineffective predictors of susceptibility to distractibility. The results were more encouraging for specific personality and intelligence variables which turned out to be effective predictors of distractibility. These findings indicate that the prototype of a distractible individual is one who tends to be higher in obsessive/compulsive and Type A behavior patterns and lower in intelligence.

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