Ability of dyslexic and control teenagers to sustain attention and inhibit responses
Dyslexia and attentional difficulty have often been linked, but little is known of the nature of the supposed attentional disorder. The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART: Robertson, Manly, Andrade, Baddeley and Yiend, 1997) was designed as a measure of sustained attention and requires the withholding of responses to rare (one in nine) targets. To investigate the nature of the attentional disorder in dyslexia, this paper reports two studies which examined the performance of teenagers with dyslexia and their age-matched controls on the SART, the squiggle SART (a modification of the SART using novel and unlabellable stimuli rather than digits) and the go-gap-stop test of response inhibition (GGST). Teenagers with dyslexia made significantly more errors than controls on the original SART, but not the squiggle SART. There were no group differences on the GGST. After controlling for speed of reaction time in a sequential multiple regression predicting SART false alarms, false alarms on the GGST accounted for up to 22% extra variance in the control groups (although less on the squiggle SART) but negligible amounts of variance in the dyslexic groups. We interpret the results as reflecting a stimulus recognition automaticity deficit in dyslexia, rather than a sustained attention deficit. Furthermore, results suggest that response inhibition is an important component of performance on the standard SART when stimuli are recognised automatically.
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