The "Yes Bias" After Traumatic Brain Injury

highlighted brain scans

Memory and attention problems are common after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, both memory and attention are complex, interrelated systems that can be broken into "pieces" of a process. Research has been mixed about specifically what piece of that process is most commonly affected by TBI. One of the problems of this research is how memory and attention is analyzed during the study. In many cases, studies will only look at one piece of the whole process.

Researchers recently examined memory and attention after TBI as both an interrelated process as well as separate pieces. One interesting finding was that people with TBI made significantly more "false alarm" responses in both memory and attention tests. In other words, when having to decide if an item that was correct or incorrect, people with TBI were more likely to mistake an incorrect item as correct.

This is also called the "yes bias"-an instinct to respond "yes, this (incorrect) item is correct" rather than "no, this (correct) item is incorrect." The yes bias is in part a result of a lack of inhibition, the inability to stop from making an incorrect choice, that is common after a TBI. The researchers suggest that this lack of inhibition may be related to the inability to sustain long periods of attention.

Slovarp L, Azuma T, & Lapointe L. The effect of traumatic brain injury on sustained attention and working memory. Brain Injury. (January 2012).