The literature indicates that mental fatigue, due to Time-on-Task (ToT), compromises the ability to ignore distractors. The present study elaborates on this effect by testing whether perceptual load of the target stimuli moderates the ability to ignore distractors under fatigue. Participants (N = 27) performed a visual attention task (an Eriksen flanker task) for 2.5 hours without rest. Target letters were presented at three different perceptual loads and with a peripheral distractor letter. Three target-distractor conditions were tested: congruent, incongruent, and neutral. Results showed that, overall, error rates and reaction times increased with ToT. The detrimental effect of fatigue on performance was most pronounced in the high perceptual load condition. Importantly, however, we also found that fatigue-related ignorance of distractors was compromised in the low perceptual load condition, but not in the medium or high perceptual load condition. This finding is in accordance with the perceptual load theory and refines the knowledge about the declining cognitive performance under fatigue.

Mental fatigue, Time-on-task, Visual attention,
Journal of Cognitive Psychology
Department of Psychology

Csathó, Á, van der Linden, D, Hernádi, I, Buzás, P, & Kalmár, A. (2012). Effects of mental fatigue on the capacity limits of visual attention. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 24(5), 511–524. doi:10.1080/20445911.2012.658039