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Is the visual world a grand illusion? A response

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Abstract:

The question of whether the visual world is a grand illusion is addressed and answered negatively. The question only arises because of the recent work on Inattentional Blindness (IB), Change Blindness (CB) and the Attentional Blink (AB) which establishes that attention is necessary for perception. It is argued that IB occurs only when attention is narrowly focussed and not when attention is more broadly distributed, which is the more typical attentional state. Under conditions of distributed attention we are likely to have a fuller, if less detailed, impression of the visual scene, which may be why we are so surprised by demonstrations of IB, AB and CB. It is also argued that the question about the possible illusory quality of our perceptual world cannot be avoided by denying that inattention causes blindness and asserting instead that it causes amnesia. This argument is grounded on the similarity between these phenomena and visual neglect and by evidence that priming by the unseen stimuli occurs in each case indicating that the stimuli to which we are functionally blind are processed and represented in implicit memory. The adaptive utility of this information is discussed.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychology Dept, New School for Social Research, 65 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY 10003. Email: mackarie@newschool.edu

Publication date: 2002-05-01

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