Colin Macleod
University of Victoria
We propose a novel phenomenon, attention contagion, defined as the spread of attentive (or inattentive) states among members of a group. We examined attention contagion in a learning environment in which pairs of undergraduate students watched a lecture video. Each pair consisted of a participant and a confederate trained to exhibit attentive behaviors (e.g., leaning forward) or inattentive behaviors (e.g., slouching). In Experiment 1, confederates sat in front of participants and could be seen. Relative to participants who watched the lecture with an inattentive confederate, participants with an attentive confederate: (a) self-reported higher levels of attentiveness, (b) behaved more attentively (e.g., took more notes), and (c) had better memory for lecture content. In Experiment 2, confederates sat behind participants. Despite confederates not being visible, participants were still aware of whether confederates were acting attentively or inattentively, and participants were still susceptible to attention contagion. Our findings suggest that distraction is one factor that contributes to the spread of inattentiveness (Experiment 1), but this phenomenon apparently can still occur in the absence of distraction (Experiment 2). We propose an account of how (in)attentiveness spreads across students and discuss practical implications regarding how learning is affected in the classroom.
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DOI 10.1037/xap0000341
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