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.


1 Answer 1


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, 2017 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, 2017 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, 2017 at 21:28

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