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Sensory alternation and vigilance performance: the role of pathway inhibition.
Galinsky TL; Warm JS; Dember WN; Weiler EM; Scerbo MW
Hum Factors 1990 Dec; 32(6):717-728
The role of pathway inhibition in sensory alternation and vigilance performance was examined. The study group consisted of 84 volunteers, 48 females, mean age 21.5 years. They participated in a 50 minute vigilance task in which they were exposed to repetitive flashes of light or bursts of white noise presented continuously or alternately during five 10 minute periods. The signals were presented at rates of 5 or 40 events per minute (min). The number of signals detected correctly was recorded. The data were interpreted according to the Posner theory of pathway inhibition which postulated that stimulus heterogeneity attenuates the effect of event rate and the decrease in processing efficiency (decrement function). The number of signals that the subjects detected correctly tended to decrease over time for both continuously and alternately presented audio and visual signals at both event rates. When the subjects were exposed continuously to either the audio or visual signals the number of signals detected correctly decreased significantly as the event rate was increased from 5 to 40 events/min. The frequency of correct detections was not significantly affected by event rate when the visual and auditory signals were alternated. The authors conclude that the data support the Posner theory in that sensory alternation eliminates the effect of event rate. Sensory alternation did not attenuate the decrement function. The effects of event rate can be explained by pathway inhibition. Other factors are probably responsible for the decrease in vigilance.
NIOSH-Author; Humans; Laboratory-testing; Vigilance-tasks; Task-performance; Statistical-analysis; Occupational-psychology
Traci L. Galinsky. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Applied Psychology and Ergonomics Branch, Robert A. Taft Laboratories. Mail Stop C-24, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226
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Page last reviewed: September 11, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division