ATTENTIONAL PROCESSES, TASK DEMANDS, AND LEARNING DISABILITIES
SONA, GREG HARRIS
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The present investigation sought to examine the roles distraction and specific forms, and modes of presentation of stimuli play in the learning difficulties of children labeled learning disabled.;The subjects of the study were twenty-six learning disabled children from 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades, and twenty-six controls matched for grade, sex, and IQ from the same elementary schools. Subjects were predominantly from lower-middle, and middle-class socioeconomic backgrounds, with "normal" intelligence, vision, and audition.;The experimental method utilized four tasks which involved two modes of presentation: visual and auditory; with two different dimensions being explored within each modality. The two dimensions consisted of stimuli which had been operationally defined as being either "meaningful" or "non-meaningful" in nature. Additionally, the four tasks were presented under three different conditions of distraction; auditory distraction, visual distraction, and "baseline", or no experimentally induced distraction. The four tasks involved the immediate recall of visually and auditorally presented letters (non-meaningful conditions), and words which formed simple sentences (meaningful conditions).;It was expected that the learning disabled groups would perform significantly poorer than controls only on the non-meaningful tasks, under conditions of induced distraction. The expected interactions between group characteristics and distraction (Grps. x D) on the non-meaningful tasks did not materialize at any of the grade levels. The many unexpected relationships which did emerge, seemed to indicate that non-attentional factors resulted in the differential performance of learning disabled, and control group children.;Theoretical speculations were advanced regarding the relationship between the present results and the construct of a developmental "lag", and the possible impact of emotional and/or motivational factors on the performance of learning disabled children. However it was stated that the design of the present study made it impossible to offer direct evidence to support the conception of a developmental lag in "selectivity", combined with later emotional factors as being generally responsible, or related to the current findings.
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