Motivation, mind-wandering, and rhythmic response: An area under the curve extension analysis of metronome response task performance

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Several models of sustained attention have been used to explain declines in performance related to motivation and mind-wandering. Specifically, the opportunity cost theory predicts that changes in motivation may insulate cognitive resources and minimize mindwandering tendencies (Esterman & Rothlein, 2019). A recent study (Brosowsky et al., 2020) expanded on this theory using a rhythmic response task, further providing evidence that, over time on task, motivation and mind-wandering are negatively associated. Since motivation levels and changes in motivation may differ, the current study extends these findings by classifying subsamples of participants based on motivational differences to examine changes in performance. Using area under the curve (AUC) calculations (Pruessner, et al., 2003), such as AUCg (the overall change over time) and AUCi (the magnitude of change over time), overall motivation and the magnitude of change in motivation was calculated. A k-means cluster classification analysis was then used to create artificial groups based on both AUC values. This allowed for the investigation of differences in task performance and mind-wandering based on these groupings. Mixed design ANOVA analyses yielded a significant Block x AUCg motivation interaction effect on omission rate (F(3,441) = 3.979, p = 0.01) and a trend for a main effect of group (F(1,147) = 3.395, p = 0.07) on task variability. These main findings provide evidence that individuals with higher overall motivation may not experience performance deficits to the same degree that those with low motivation appear to. Further, the magnitude of change in motivation may only exhibit differences regarding mind-wandering tendencies. (Author abstract)