Effects of Change in Stimulus Background on Performance of a Visual Task

Abstract

THE effects of varying the auditory and visual characteristics of irrelevant background stimulation on auditory vigilance tasks have been investigated intensively1. While the introduction of incidental stimulation in such a situation is usually detrimental to performance, in some conditions performance may be facilitated by the presence of such stimulation. It has been demonstrated that the rate of detection of an auditory signal increased when subjects were exposed to varying irrelevant visual stimuli2, but no research seems to have been directed at investigating the effect of varying the visual background information on the performance of a visual task. The present study seeks to do this, using printed material. The experimental hypothesis derives from Berlyne's3,4 extension of Hullian theory to the field of attention. He suggested that changes in a stimulus array counteracted the “conditioned inhibition” of Hull5, which it is assumed develops during responding to an ongoing series of similar stimuli, leading to a tendency not to respond. This implies that the perceptual response to a changing stimulus series will be greater than to an unchanging one. It is supposed here that the same consideration applies to the stimulus setting as to the stimulus. Thus it is predicted that periodic changes, in this case of colour, in the background of a series of visual stimuli, which are themselves changed only within narrow limits, will increase the proficiency with which the stimulus series is attended to and processed.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Vigilance: A Symposium (edit. by Buckner, D. W. and McGrath, J. J.) (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1963).

  2. 2

    Weiner, B., and Feldman, P., Brit. J. Psychol., 58, 69 (1967).

  3. 3

    Berlyne, D. E., Brit. J. Psychol., 42, 269 (1951).

  4. 4

    Berlyne, D. E., Conflict, Arousal and Curiosity (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1960).

  5. 5

    Hull, C. L., Principles of Behavior (Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1943).

  6. 6

    Wittenborn, J. R., Psychometrika, 8, 19 (1943).

  7. 7

    Greenberger, E., Woldman, J., and Yourshaw, S. W., Brit. J. Psychol., 58, 375 (1967).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

M'COMISKY, J., WILLIAMS, D. Effects of Change in Stimulus Background on Performance of a Visual Task. Nature 223, 972–973 (1969). https://doi.org/10.1038/223972a0

Download citation

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.