Volume 9

Visual Attention Under Cognitive Load: An Investigation of the Attentional Myopia Model of Self-Regulation

Richard M. Hunt

Mismanagement of unhealthy behaviors and emotions is often central to human dysfunction. The attentional myopia model of self-regulation posits that self-regulation of unhealthy behaviors and emotions demand considerable attentional resources. According to the model, when individuals’ attentional capacity is limited, their behavior will be disproportionately influenced by highly salient internal and external cues, excluding more distal stimuli. In this study, 54 young adults’ eyes were tracked to measure attentional fixations to forbidden images. Cognitive load was induced in half of the sample while all participants received inhibitory instructions prior to viewing slide presentations. Attentional biases were measured by comparing mean fixation time upon the forbidden stimuli. Participants under load did not have greater fixations on the forbidden stimuli than the control group. Several secondary findings reveal support for the attentional myopia model, yet the nature of the inhibitory instructions may have led to an unanticipated degree of obedience and compliance

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