ABBA design attention theory study

Based on Treisman’s attention theory and his attenuator experiment which claims that all messages reach the selective filter where one message is selected to pay attention to. Treisman, a colleague of Broadbent thought that all other messages which reach the selected filter are not blocked out but are instead turned down, known as attenuated. Within my experiment I hoped to find out whether it takes longer to complete a card sorting task with distracting noise than in silence.

I predicted that in accordance with Treisman that it would take longer for the cart sorting task to take place with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing in the background than it would in silence.

 I decided to use an experiment as my research method and within this used a counterbalancing method (ABBA) to help control the order effects. My participant’s were chosen using opportunity sampling; who was available to me at the time of the experiment and I had 6 participants aged from 16-45 from the Portglenone area in my sample.

I used averages to show how the participants performed as a group. I decided to use the mean and the median to represent this and I found that my results did match the hypothesis of my experiment that participants did take a longer time period to complete their task when there was a distracting noise that had to be attenuated. From this we have shown that Treisman’s Attenuator model does in fact explain the effect of distractions on a person’s attention span.

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Introduction The aim of this experiment is to determine whether it takes longer to complete a card sorting task into piles of odd and even numbers with a distracting noise than it is in silence. There are several theories that could explain this and these are known as Selective Attention Models. Broadbent developed a ‘Filter Theory’ which claimed that information enters the human brain through the senses.

This information is then processed by the Central Processor which can only deal with a limited amount of information at any one time which can often exceed the capacity of the Central Processor. Broadbent dealt with this problem by adding a filter to his model. This was a selective filter which selects one channel of information to be processed by the Central Processor and blocks out all the other channels. However, Broadbent’s theory is limited in that according to him; all non-attended messages are completely blocked out. This can be disproved in our everyday lives where we are often distracted by something we weren’t paying attention to.

Another theorist called Treisman who was a colleague of Broadbent developed the Attenuator model. This model claimed that all incoming messages reached the selective filter but that the selective filter picks one message and that the other messages are not completely blocked out but instead are attenuated which means they are turned down. I think that in accordance with Treisman’s Attenuator model that it will take participants longer to complete the card sorting task with the distracting noise than it will be for them to complete it in silence. Method The independent variable within this experiment is whether there is a distracting noise playing. The Conditions are: a) No distracting noise in the background b) A distracting noise in the background The dependant variable within this experiment is the time taken in seconds for each participant to complete their card sorting task.

There are different ways of organising experiments to try to control extraneous variables. We decided to use the repeated measures design. This meant that one group of participants were tested two (or more) times under each condition of the independent variable. This is an advantage as it controls individual differences in ability and motivation as examples of extraneous variables. This repeated measures method however doesn’t take into account that participants may perform worse the second time they complete each task due to tiredness or boredom. These are the order effects. On the other hand participants may perform better the second time due to the effects of practice.

There are ways to help control these order effects that I have outlined above. It is possible to leave a gap between the two conditions e.g. different days which would prove very time consuming due to the number of participants we used. Another method of trying to control these order effects is known as counter balancing. This is when the conditions are not always done in order e.g. half the group completes condition A followed by condition B. Another method is known as ABBA design. This is where all is known complete task A, then task B, then repeats the experiment doing task B and then finally task A. I have decided to use the ABBA design as my control method.

Participants My participants were drawn from my target population of friends and family aged 16-45 from Portglenone. This group is deemed to be representative of the whole population and I decided to use 6 participants.  Sampling Method I decided to use opportunity sampling within my experiment – who was available to me at the time of my experiment. I chose this method as it was quick and convenient especially as I had limited time to conduct my experiment. Within my sample I had 6 participants; 3 female and 3 male. These participants were readily available to me as they were present in my house at the time of the experiment.

Materials and Apparatus In this experiment we used a stop clock to count the time it took for each participant to complete their tasks. A CD player and a CD of AC/DC (Rock Music) were also used along with1 standard pack of playing cards. The face cards within the standard pack of cards (Jack, Queen and King) were removed. I also defined that an ace card would be defined as 1 for the processing task. Also; it was decided that if a participant places a card into the wrong pile he/she should correct this. Each participant would be supervised when completing their tasks to help point out any mistakes. Another important rule we decided upon was that all participants must hold the cards face up, and we felt this would give a true representation of the time taken to complete the task instead of having to turn the card before it could be seen which would use up more time.

Ethical Issues There a number of ethical issues which need to be considered when completing this experiment. Participants were approached and were given a copy of a briefing. The purpose of a briefing is to provide participants with the experiment details. The briefing should cover the ethical issues of: 1. Informed Consent Participants were given a full explanation in the form of a briefing included in the appendix detailing what the experiment involves. After reading the briefing, participants were then able to decide whether they wanted to participate in the experiment. As all those in my target population were of consenting age (16) I avoided any ethical issue that arises from vulnerable members of society; children, psychiatric patients etc.

2. The Right to Withdraw Participants will also be made aware in the briefing that they have the right to withdraw from the experiment at any time, even if they have previously given consent. This will also mean that if they have conducted the experiment and wish to withdraw that their results will be withdrawn from the written report.

3. Protection from Harm Participants should be protected from short term distress and long term harm. Within my experiment I ensured that this issue was covered by certifying that my chosen music didn’t include any offensive lyrics or that the music wasn’t played too loud so that it could be potentially damaging. 4. Confidentiality Participants will also be reassured that their identity will remain anonymous. I will ensure that this is adhered to by not including any of the participants’ names in the experiment.

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ABBA design attention theory study. (2017, Dec 11). Retrieved from

ABBA design attention theory study
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