UTA Study Examines Paying Attention, Self Control

Paying attention and self control are essential to success in academic and other pursuits. Researchers want to understand the physical and emotional states related to them

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are using computer game testing combined with simultaneous analysis of skin activity and heart rate to determine the ideal physical and mental states to help children and adults pay attention and practice self control.

self control

Catherine Spann, a researcher at UTAp is principal investigator of the study. [Photo Courtesy UT Arlington]

“We know attention and self-regulation are critical for things like academic success, financial success, and general health and well-being,” Catherine Spann, a researcher at UTA’s Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge or LINK Research Lab and principal investigator of the study, said in a release.

“We think that if we understand the different physical and emotional states related to attention and self-regulation, we could develop targeted interventions for children and adults to achieve greater well-being,” she said.

Spann is using volunteers ages 7 and up to conduct her Psychophysiology of Self-Regulation Study in collaboration with the Research and Learning Center at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the release said.

How does it work?

According to the release, participants complete a questionnaire about general levels of attention and self-regulation in their lives. They report how they feel, the release said, and then complete an attention and self-regulation task on a tablet — all while wearing a wristband that tracks their heart rates and skin activity.

The band shows how calm or engaged the participants are, the release said.

The task is then scored based on a combination of accuracy and reaction time, the release said.

Spann also is investigating how some details of the individuals such as age, gender, and general self-regulation in general life, can impact how the body reacts during the task.

According to the release, Spann intends to discuss her preliminary findings at the 2016 aWear Conference next week at Stanford University.

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