Nothing else matters: Video games create sustained attentional selection away from task-irrelevant features

Cutting, J; Cairns, Paul and Kuhn, Gustav. 2020. Nothing else matters: Video games create sustained attentional selection away from task-irrelevant features. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 82, pp. 3907-3919. ISSN 1943-3921 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Feature-based attention allocates resources to particular stimulus features and reduces processing and retention of unattended features. We performed four experiments using self-paced video games to investigate whether sustained attentional selection of features could be created without a distractor task requiring continuous processing. Experiments 1 and 2 compared two versions of the game Two Dots, each containing a sequence of images. For the more immersive game post-game recognition of images was very low, but for the less immersive game it was significantly higher. Experiments 3 and 4 found that post-game image recognition was very low if the images were irrelevant to the game task but significantly higher if the images were relevant to the task. We conclude that games create sustained attentional selection away from task-irrelevant features, even if they are in full view, which leads to reduced retention. This reduced retention is due to differences in attentional set rather than a response to limited processing resources. The consistency of this attentional selection is moderated by the level of immersion in the game. We also discuss possible attentional mechanisms for the changes in recognition rates and the implications for applications such as serious games.

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This work was supported by the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games & Game Intelligence (IGGI) [EP/L015846/1] and the Digital Creativity Labs jointly funded by EPSRC/AHRC/InnovateUK under grant no EP/M023265/1.


Attention: Selective, Attention: Divided Attention and Inattention, Attention: Interactions with Memory

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20 August 2020Accepted
11 September 2020Published Online
November 2020Published

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21 Aug 2020 14:05

Last Modified:

14 Jun 2021 17:26

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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