The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) is a computer-based go/no-go task that requires participants to withhold behavioral response to a single, infrequent target (often the digit 3) presented amongst a background of frequent non-targets (0-2, 4-9). There is evidence supporting the role of the SART as a measure of working memory, sustained attention, and impulse/inhibitory control. In this task, the participant is asked to respond (e.g., button press) to the non-target and to inhibit their response to the target. To perform well, individuals must remain sufficiently attentive to their responses, such that, at the appearance of a target, they can override the dominant pre-potent motor response and substitute the directly antagonistic response (i.e., withhold button press). In this version of the task, a practice block (160-trial with 8 no-go trials; 3 minutes) is followed by four blocks (~5 min each) of the task (1040 trials total, not including the practice block). Each block consists of 260 single digits (0 through 9) presented pseudo-randomly to establish pre-potent motor response (i.e., a tendency to want to respond), such that targets (3, no-go trial) are separated by at least 5 non-target digits (0-2, 4-9; go trial) with 18 trials per block (~7%) being no-go trials. The digits are displayed centrally on a computer screen in one of five randomly assigned fonts (48, 72, 94, 100, and 120 point), representing digit heights between 12 and 29 mm. Each digit is displayed for 250 ms and then replaced by a 900 ms duration mask composed of an X presented within a 29 mm ring with a diagonal cross in the middle. Presentation is regularly paced at an onset-to-onset interval of 1150 ms. Both digits and mask are white against a black background. Reaction times of all key presses relative to digit stimulus presentation are collected for later analyses. After each block (including practice block), two probe questions are presented in succession. The first asks, "Where was your attention focused during this block of trials?" Participants should respond on a 6-point Likert scale, where 1 represents, "on task," and 6, "off task." A second question asks, "How aware were you of where your attention was during this block of trials?" Participants respond on a similar scale, where 1 represents, "aware," and 6, "unaware." The probe questions are displayed until a response is made. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjvW4q0v5AI&t=113s for an example.)
The SART is a measure of sustained attention and inhibitory control, specifically related to the ability to control behavioral impulses and make more adaptive choices (Robertson et al., 2007). In several studies, Manly, Robertson, and their colleagues have shown that performance on the SART is diminished following Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to the frontal lobes and that SART performance correlates with other measures of sustained attention (Manly, Robertson, Galloway, & Hawkins, 1999; Manly et al., 2003; Robertson et al., 1997). Helton and William (2009) demonstrated that the SART is sensitive to impulsive responding. Improvements in sustained attention and inhibitory control may contribute to more successful self-regulation. Impulse control and sustained attention are key cognitive processes for executive function and are associated with many real-world behaviors (e.g., greater consumption of healthy food alternatives, less risky sexual behaviors, successful delay in receiving larger reward; Barratt and Patton, 1983; Birthrong and Latzman, 2014; Swann et al., 2002). As such, the SART may tap into a mechanism driving behavior change.
[+] PMCID, PUBMED ID, or CITATION
Text Citation: Robertson, I. H., Manly, T., Andrade, J., Baddeley, B. T., & Yiend, J. (1997). 'Oops!': performance correlates of everyday attentional failures in traumatic brain injured and normal subjects. Neuropsychologia, 35, 747-758. doi:S0028-3932(97)00015-8 [pii]
Text Citation: Manly, T., Robertson, I. H., Galloway, M., & Hawkins, K. (1999). The absent mind:: further investigations of sustained attention to response. Neuropsychologia, 37(6), 661-670. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0028-3932(98)00127-4
Text Citation: Manly, T., Owen, A. M., McAvinue, L., Datta, A., Lewis, G. H., Scott, S. K., . . . Robertson, I. H. (2003). Enhancing the Sensitivity of a Sustained Attention Task to Frontal Damage: Convergent Clinical and Functional Imaging Evidence. Neurocase, 9(4), 340-349. doi:10.1076/neur.9.4.340.15553
Text Citation: Swann, A. C., Bjork, J. M., Moeller, F. G., & Dougherty, D. M. (2002). Two models of impulsivity: relationship to personality traits and psychopathology. Biological Psychiatry, 51(12), 988-994. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3223(01)01357-9
Text Citation: Birthrong, A., & Latzman, R. D. (2014). Aspects of impulsivity are differentially associated with risky sexual behaviors. Personality and Individual Differences, 57(Supplement C), 8-13. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2013.09.009
Text Citation: Helton, W. S. (2009). Impulsive responding and the sustained attention to response task. Journal of clinical and experimental neuropsychology, 31, 39-47. doi:10.1080/13803390801978856
Text Citation: Smallwood, J., Davies, J. B., Heim, D., Finnigan, F., Sudberry, M., O'Connor, R., & Obonsawin, M. (2004). Subjective experience and the attentional lapse: Task engagement and disengagement during sustained attention. Conscious Cogn, 13, 657-690. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2004.06.003
Text Citation: Jha, A. P., Morrison, A. B., Dainer-Best, J., Parker, S., Rostrup, N., & Stanley, E. A. (2015). Minds “At Attention”: Mindfulness Training Curbs Attentional Lapses in Military Cohorts. PLoS ONE, 10(2), e0116889. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116889
|Jha-2015-25671579-1.pdf Manly_etal_2003.pdf Swann_etal_2002.pdf robertson_etal_1997-1.pdf manly_etal_1999.pdf helton_2009.pdf birthrong_latzman_2014.pdf Barratt_1983.pdf Smallwood_etal_2004-1.pdf|
This measure has not been measured yet.
This measure has not been influenced yet.
This measure has not been validated yet.
|Sustained Attention to Response Task Protocol||Download File|
Robertson, I. H., Manly, T., Andrade, J., Baddeley, B. T., Yiend, J. ‘Oops!’: Performance correlates of everyday attentional failures in traumatic brain injured and normal subjects. (1997) Neuropsychologica. 35(6), 747-758
Manly, T., Robertson, I. H., Galloway, M., & Hawkins, K. (1999). The absent mind:: further investigations of sustained attention to response. Neuropsychologia, 37(6), 661-670. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0028-3932(98)00127-4
Helton, W. S. (2009). Impulsive responding and the sustained attention to response task. Journal of clinical and experimental neuropsychology, 31, 39-47. doi:10.1080/13803390801978856
Smallwood, J., Davies, J. B., Heim, D., Finnigan, F., Sudberry, M., O'Connor, R., & Obonsawin, M. (2004). Subjective experience and the attentional lapse: Task engagement and disengagement during sustained attention. Conscious Cogn, 13, 657-690. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2004.06.003
Jackson, J. D., & Balota, D. a. (2012). Mind-wandering in younger and older adults: Converging evidence from the sustained attention to response task and reading for comprehension. Psychology and Aging, 27, 106-119. doi:10.1037/a0023933
Dillard, M. B., Warm, J. S., Funke, G. J., Funke, M. E., Finomore, V. S., Jr., Matthews, G., . . . Parasuraman, R. (2014). The sustained attention to response task (SART) does not promote mindlessness during vigilance performance. Hum Factors, 56(8), 1364-1379. doi:10.1177/0018720814537521
Jha, A. P., Morrison, A. B., Dainer-Best, J., Parker, S., Rostrup, N., & Stanley, E. A. (2015). Minds "at attention ": Mindfulness training curbs attentional lapses in military cohorts. PLoS One, 10, 1-19. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116889
Mrazek, M. D., Smallwood, J., & Schooler, J. W. (2012). Mindfulness and mind-wandering: finding convergence through opposing constructs. Emotion, 12, 442-448. doi:10.1037/a0026678
The Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) program seeks to promote basic research on the initiation, personalization and maintenance of behavior change. By integrating work across disciplines, this effort will lead to an improved understanding of the underlying principles of behavior change. The SOBC program aims to implement a mechanisms-focused, experimental medicine approach to behavior change research and to develop the tools required to implement such an approach. The experimental medicine approach involves: identifying an intervention target, developing measures to permit verification of the target, engaging the target through experimentation or intervention, and testing the degree to which target engagement produces the desired behavior change.
Within the SOBC Measures Repository, researchers have access to measures of mechanistic targets that have been (or are in the processing of being) validated by SOBC Research Network Members and other experts in the field. The SOBC Validation Process includes three important stages of evaluation for each proposed measure: Identification, Measurement, and Influence.
The first stage of validation requires a measure to be Identified within the field; there must be theoretical support for the specific measure of the proposed mechanistic target or potential mechanism of behavior change. This evidence may include references for the proposed measure, or theoretical support for the construct that the proposed measure is intended to assess. The second stage of validation requires demonstration that the level and change in level of the chosen mechanistic target can be Measured with the proposed measure (assay). For example, if the proposed measure is a questionnaire, the score on the measure should indicate the activity of the target process, and it must have strong psychometric properties. The third stage of validation requires demonstration that the measure can be Influenced; there must be evidence that the measured target is malleable and responsive to manipulation. Evidence relating to each stage includes at least one peer-reviewed publication or original data presentation (if no peer-reviewed research is available to support the claim) and is evaluated by SOBC Research Network Members and experts in the field.
Once a measure has gone through these three stages, it will then either be Validated or Not validated according to SOBC Research Network standards. If a measure is Validated, then change in the measured target was reliably associated with Behavior Change. If a measure is Not validated, then change in the measured target was not reliably associated with Behavior Change. Why would we share measures that are not validated? The SOBC Research Network values open, rigorous, and transparent research. Our goal is to make meaningful progress and develop replicable and effective interventions in behavior change science. Therefore, the SOBC sees value in providing other researchers in the field with information regarding measures that work and measures that fall short for specific targets. Further, a measure that is not validated for one target in one population may be validated in another target or population.
Want to learn more? For any questions regarding the SOBC Validation Process or Measures Repository, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Has the mechanism been identified as a potential target for behavior change? This section summarizes theoretical support for the mechanism.
Have the psychometric properties of this measure been assessed? This section includes information such as content validity, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability.
Has a study manipulation led to change in the mechanism? This section addresses evidence that this measure is modifiable by experimental manipulation or clinical intervention.
Has a change in this mechanism been associated with behavior change? This section addresses empirical evidence that causing change in the measure reliably produces subsequent behavior change.