How can we measure and quantify concentration or focus? For example, if I were to say:

"If you do Activity X while using Y, you will be more concentrated than if you were using Z"

How can I quantify that? And what tests should I do to actually prove that statement? Examples are appreciated.

Background I am trying to build some different technology products and I want them to help the user stay more focused than they would using a competitor product of the same kind. The only research I've done so far was to build some interfaces and ask the user how they feel.


Short answer
Attention can be quantified with a sustained attention to response task.

I think with focus or concentration you mean sustained attention to a certain task. A sustained attention to response task (SART) (Silverstein & Palumbo, 1998) could be helpful to you (here is a free PsychoPy script). SART seems to be a reliable measure for attention (Smilek et al., 2010).

Basically SART consists of a set of stimuli (e.g., simple shapes) and the subject is asked to repeatedly give a response (e.g. a button press) when a certain event occurs (e.g. a shape changes color). Reductions in correct rates, increased lapse rates, and/or decreased reaction times all may signal reduced attention to the task.

Admittedly I am not too familiar with these tests, but I do have a lot of experience with people loosing attention during tedious psychophysical tasks :) I hope the links and references provided here may be of further help.

- Silverstein & Palumbo, Computers in Human Behavior (1998); 14(3): 463-75
- Smilek et al., Neuropsychologia (2010); 48(9): 2564-70

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! So, is this only valid when used as the only task a user does, or could it also be done to track other tasks? For example, suppose my subject is doing a given task on a computer (checking email vs. programming), and at random times these shapes take place on the screen and the user has to push a button if they are of equal shape. If the user performs better on these while programming than checking their email, can I say that he/she was more concentrated while programming? $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '17 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielNogueira97 - problem is that you can't really evaluate attention to task A when doing task B, because when you do it simultaneously a lapse on the attention task may be caused by a great focus on the programming task. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jun 28 '17 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ So the way, I suppose, is to come up with a way to create these "challenges" within task A. Is that correct? Is there such challenges within computer tasks? $\endgroup$ Jun 29 '17 at 21:28

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