The worst performance rule (WPR) describes the phenomenon that individuals’ slowest responses in a task are often more predictive of their intelligence than their fastest or average responses. To explain this phenomenon, it was previously suggested that occasional lapses of attention during task completion might be associated with particularly slow reaction times. Because less intelligent individuals should experience lapses of attention more frequently, reaction time distribution should be more heavily skewed for them than for more intelligent people. Consequently, the correlation between intelligence and reaction times should increase from the lowest to the highest quantile of the response time distribution. This attentional lapses account has some intuitive appeal, but has not yet been tested empirically. Using a hierarchical modeling approach, we investigated whether the WPR pattern would disappear when including different behavioral, self-report, and neural measurements of attentional lapses as predictors. In a sample of N = 85, we found that attentional lapses accounted for the WPR, but effect sizes of single covariates were mostly small to very small. We replicated these results in a reanalysis of a much larger previously published data set. Our findings render empirical support to the attentional lapses account of the WPR.
Löffler, C., Frischkorn, G. T., Rummel, J., Hagemann, D., & Schubert, A.-L. (2022). Do Attentional Lapses Account for the Worst Performance Rule? Journal of Intelligence, 10 (1), 2. doi:10.3390/jintelligence10010002