[PUBLISHED] The role of attention control in complex real-world tasks

Draheim, C., Pak, R., Draheim, A. A., & Engle, R. W. (2022). The role of attention control in complex real-world tasks. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

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Working memory capacity is an important psychological construct, and many real-world phenomena are strongly associated with individual differences in working memory functioning. Although working memory and attention are intertwined, several studies have recently shown that individual differences in the general ability to control attention is more strongly predictive of human behavior than working memory capacity. In this review, we argue that researchers would therefore generally be better suited to studying the role of attention control rather than memory-based abilities in explaining real-world behavior and performance in humans. The review begins with a discussion of relevant literature on the nature and measurement of both working memory capacity and attention control, including recent developments in the study of individual differences of attention control. We then selectively review existing literature on the role of both working memory and attention in various applied settings and explain, in each case, why a switch in emphasis to attention control is warranted. Topics covered include psychological testing, cognitive training, education, sports, police decision-making, human factors, and disorders within clinical psychology. The review concludes with general recommendations and best practices for researchers interested in conducting studies of individual differences in attention control.