--Original published at WilliamsCollegeBlog
One of the big topics surrounding the generations today is the attention span of everyone in daily lives. A large issue comes with children diagnosed with the attention problem Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which affect about 1 in every 20 children. It is scary how easily our attention can flip from one serious matter to the latest email popping up on the screen. Cell phones and any other mobile device has become part of a person’s life and will not go anywhere without it. This idea of having multiple screens in front of a person became a study too good not to dive deeper into. A group of researchers from Cambridge University, led by Barbara Sahakian, decided to look into how we could use mobile devices to enhance one’s attention span and keep them on task.
The main method for looking at such a study was designing an application where players would have to remember certain patterns or look for sequences in a list of numbers. The game, Decoder, was invented by the research team and requires concentration in order to complete a level. As people grow, the part of the brain responsible for concentration and attention is meant to grow and help people be adults. Decoder is supposed to help sustain such attention and allow for motivation amongst players.
For the researchers to get accurate results, they went out and setup an experiment. Seventy-five young adults were recruited from the local Cambridge area based on what the researchers defined as healthy and young. They were considered healthy based on psychiatric and ADHD tests. The experiment was carried out by randomly assigning the participants to three different groups, allowing twenty-five people per group. One group was given the task of playing the Decoder game, another to play the game Bingo, and the last group played no game at all and carried their lives out normally. The last group was considered the control group and was used as a baseline for the results of the other two groups. Bingo was used because of its similar stimulus but does not give the same training for attention. The perimeters for the two groups playing a game was allotted to eight 1-hour sessions of gameplay over a 4-week span.
After each session of gameplay those two groups were asked to rate their experiences based on four levels of criteria. Those being alertness, enjoyment, motivation, and positive mood. At the end of the 4 weeks, all seventy-five participants were given a test to measure the outcomes. Over the eight sessions there was a significant difference between the Decoder and Bingo group in terms of all four groups. Two other tests, the CANTAB Rapid Visual Information Processing Test (RVP) and Trail Making Test (TMT), were given to assess sustained attention by completing a task requiring a certain level of awareness and concentration. The RVP test tested a participant’s ability to react to a certain sequence while the TMT looked at the response time and completion of test.
The experiment came out as a success, with the results concluding the original thought. While playing the game Decoder, attention and concentration showed improvement in comparison to the other two groups. The experiment used participants considered to be healthy, but now there is possibilities to achieve improvement for children and adults that suffer from ADHD. People who already have poor attention abilities and get easily distracted have shown improvement when using the game Decoder.
The future for these studies is endless. The success of the first experiment showed good improvement and the research behind ADHD patients shows promising results. People who suffer from concussions and traumatic brain injuries are also able to benefit from games like Decoder because they have impaired sustained attention. The cognitive training is huge and will be able to allow large advancements in this field.
One of the biggest challenges I found while writing this article was keeping the information concise and not adding too much detail to a subject when details were not necessary. Most of research article brought up terminology from neuroscience and the normal reader would not understand. Keeping this in mind, determining what I needed in the article itself was not difficult. I believe that the original article did a good job describing the experiment without using all the terminology and it helped keep me in line when writing. While writing, I knew I had to keep the 5 critical questions in the back of my mind and consider what the original did. The purpose is to make the paper make sense to whoever is reading, eve though would not be looking to make sure those questions are included.
In the original article, not all the 5 critical questions were addressed, and it made for a little bit of confusion on my part. The one they missed was talking about how they operationalized their variable. I would believe that is one of the most important questions to answer in the beginning. As I was referencing the original, I made sure to include the important details that they forgot to include. Writers are known for adding a bunch of extra words to make themselves sound better and it was obvious. There was a lot of generalization and assumptions about the research that should not happened. After reading the research, I made sure to make those distinct differences. Since the original article used many of the critical questions, it was rather simple finding a way to incorporate the same ones into my article. Questions involving the selection of participants and how they were assigned were straight forward and clear questions to answer in the article. The use of causal claims is important since it secures a sense of validity for the research itself. Keeping all those questions in the back of my mind, made for an easy time writing this article.
After finishing this project, there was a lot to learn about journalism. A main takeaway for me was how generalizing is a large part of making an article sound well written. Obviously not all readers are going to be as skilled as noticing when a piece of information is missing so generalizing is the key for most writers. Once we got the scholarly article that the pop culture article was written from, the level of writing had gone down. It is once again a key factor of generalizing. Journalism is great for creating a new story based on original concepts. Audiences do not want to read about statistics relating to a study; rather they want to hear the story behind it and why they should be reading anyways. If the audience is captivated by the information, writers know it is a good piece of work.
Avramova, Nina. “This brain training app may help you stay focused.” CNN. Cable News Network, 21 Jan. 2019. Web. Accessed on 28 Jan. 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/21/health/brain-training-app-focus-attention-study-intl/index.html
Savulich, George, et al. “Improvements in Attention Following Cognitive Training With the Novel ‘Decoder’ Game on an iPad.” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 13, no. 2, doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00002. file:///C:/Users/wscho/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/For%20Will%20S%20(3).pdf