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The influence of pain on attention: influence of electrocutaneous stimuli on N-back task performance

Beltman, Suzanne (2012) The influence of pain on attention: influence of electrocutaneous stimuli on N-back task performance.

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Abstract:The present experiment studied the effect of task-irrelevant distractive nociceptive stimuli on task performance in a 2-back and 3-back matching task. During the task participants were presented with an irrelevant electrocutaneous stimulus at 50% of the match- and non-match-trials. Participants were tested for their task performance, measured in reaction time and error percentage. In each trial stimuli were offered at memory consolidation, memory retrieval, both (consolidation and retrieval) or no stimuli were offered at all. It was expected that task-irrelevant distractive nociceptive stimuli have a detrimental effect on task performance and that this effect would be less under high attentional load compared to low attentional load. Analysis showed no significant effect of task-irrelevant distractive nociceptive stimuli on task performance in the N-back task. When having a closer look at the working memory processes of memory consolidation and memory retrieval, there was no difference in effect between the four stimuli conditions. Task performance did not differ among the conditions. The hypothesis that the detrimental effect of nociceptive stimuli on task performance would be less under high attentional load compared to low attentional load was not confirmed. A main effect was found for task-difficulty, showing that reaction times were higher for 3-back tasks than for 2-back tasks, which is the standard effect between 2-back and 3-back tasks. The results can be explained in terms of bottom-up stimuli features such as intensity, novelty and dissimilarity between distractors and targets. Explanations can also come from top down 2-back and 3-back task demands or the experimental design that used pain stimuli of short duration versus continuous pain stimuli of long duration.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/61829
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