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Distraction Effects in Tasks of Varying Difficulty: Methodological Issues in Measuring Development of Distractibility NICHD

Flaugher, Janice; Hale, Gordon A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Attention, Cognitive Development, Elementary School Students, Memory, Performance Factors


The effects of distraction on 5- and 8-year-old children's performance on a short-term memory task were examined. Tasks at three levels of difficulty were employed to determine whether a floor effect could account for the lack of an age difference reported in an earlier study. A floor effect does not appear to be a key factor; performance was well above chance under all conditions here, yet the absolute amount of performance decrement was roughly equal for the two age levels regardless of task difficulty. Also at issue here is whether proportional change might be a more appropriate index of distraction effects than absolute performance decrement. The relevance of the present data to this issue is discussed. The children adapted somewhat to the presence of distraction as shown in greater performance impairment for the first trial under distraction than for remaining trials. The degree of adaptation was roughly comparable for the two age groups. (19pp.)

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