Reaserch Analysis

Research Analysis



The article under analysis is Attentional mechanisms in learned predictiveness. This is a research that was carried out in order to determine that the learned predictiveness effect is a product of attentional processes, and whether these processes are voluntarily controlled or automatic in nature.

Methodology and Results

The Study

The study involved two different experiments, each conducted in two phases. In the first experiment, the participants needed to learn the shapes of trees that came from the numerous sets of cross pollinated seeds. In the second experiment, they had to do the same thing, but the background information provided was distorted and thus different from what they knew during the first experiment.

The Dependent Variables

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In this study, the dependent variables included the time allowed for the eye gaze, the background information on the expected outcomes, and the learning outcomes of the participants.

The Independent Variables

These included the selectivity of the participants with regards to their attention, especially in the second phase of both experiments, their familiarity with the cues and outcomes, and their expectations based on the provided background information.

The Participants

The experiments were conducted on about 44 students from the University of South Wales in exchange for course credits (Mitchell, Griffiths, Seetoo, & Lovibond, 2012). The second experiment, however, used only 32 students.

The Apparatus

The pictures of the seeds and their corresponding trees were placed on a screen in front of the participants and the time taken for them to make a prediction recorded. The eye gaze behavior was recorded using a T60 Eye Tracker.

Specific Experimental Manipulation

In experiment 1, the manipulation was in the availability of processing resources for the second phase of the learned predictiveness task. To diffrerentiate the two experiments, the participants were given altered information on the cues and outcomes during the second experiment so as to influence their attentional mechanisms.


In experiment 1, 44 participants were divided into two groups of time allocated for eye gazing with the short group having 1.25s and the long group having 5s. Each group was then allowed to make their prediction after looking at the seeds and the trees on the screen. The time they took to make the predictions as well as the accuracy of their predictions, and the time they spent gazing at the reliable cues were all recorded. The same thing happened in the second experiment, except the participants were less by four for each of the groups.

Data Obtained

The data obtained from these experiments included the predictive accuracy and eye gaze allocation times of the participants (Mitchell, Griffiths, Seetoo, & Lovibond, 2012). These are then averaged by group to determine any differences between them.


For phase 1 of the first experiment, the performance with regards to predictive accuracy was the same on average for both groups. For the second phase, the predictiveness bias was established and participants also gazed longer on the predictive cues. In this sense, the learning predictiveness of the participants was subject to selectivity on stimuli and was amplified by a scarcity of resources; in this case, time was being a resource. The participants in the short group were under time pressure and they showed more attention towards the predictive cues. While the attentional bias may have not been as a result of the time restraints, the short group was more intense on their focus towards the predictive cues. The accuracy, however, did not differ significantly with those of the long group who were not under any time pressure.

For the second experiment, the participants showed a bias towards the predictive cues based on their belief on which cues were important. Their biases varied based on what they were told prior to the experiment. Consequently, those, who were informed that the cues that had been important in phase 1 would not be as important in the second phase, showed less eye gaze and learning bias towards the predictive cues.


The experiments provided evidence that the learned predictiveness was a result of attentional mechanisms and that the predictiveness was a result of a controlled process since the effects were strongest in the absence of the cognitive function.

The Proposal

These experiments established the role of attentional mechanisms in learned predictiveness. Future research should thus address the possibility of inference processes playing a significant role in learned predictiveness as well. The participants in this experiment were greatly influenced by their beliefs on which cues were important based on previously obtained information. This signifies a causal approach to the learned predictiveness thus a possibility of a yet another underlying factor in the whole issue of learned predictiveness.

In order to investigate this possibility, the predictive accuracy of participants will be tested under different backgrounds to ensure that they are using the casual approach at all times during the experiment. The cognitive function should be kept at bay, so time pressure will be consistent and the gaze allocation will be measured as well. The experiments will be quite similar to the one on attentional mechanisms except that in this one, the participants will only have different background information that is bound to affect their choices each time.

The experiment will borrow greatly from the idea of attentional mechanisms except that the influence will not entirely be based on experience, but rather provided information. The participants will thus be tested for level to which background information influences their predictive accuracy.

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