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The attentional blink is susceptible to concurrent perceptual processing demands

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In a rapid serial visual presentation stream processing of a first target (T1) impairs detection or identification of a second target (T2) that appears within 500 ms after T1. This effect characterizes the so-called attentional blink (AB). To evaluate contemporary information-processing accounts of the AB phenomenon in terms of the underlying processing mechanisms the present study examined the potential influence of Task 1 difficulty on the AB effect. To this end, T1 contrast and T1 response requirements were systematically varied across four experiments. Experiment 1 ruled out a mere sensory basis of the contrast manipulation on T2 performance. When only T2 had to be reported (Experiment 2) an AB effect occurred that was slightly modulated by T1 contrast. When report of both T1 and T2 was required in a standard AB task (Experiment 3), the magnitude of the AB depended to a larger extent on stimulus contrast, and it increased further when speeded T1 choice responses were additionally required (Experiment 4). On the basis of the present impact of Task 1 difficulty on the AB effect we conclude that processing limitations cause the AB phenomenon. We discuss such limitations in terms of perceptual (T1 consolidation) and central (response selection) bottleneck processes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2004


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