Surprise-induced blindness: a stimulus-driven attentional limit to conscious perception.

Asplund CL, Todd JJ, Snyder AP, Gilbert CM, Marois R
J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2010 36 (6): 1372-81

PMID: 20919779 · PMCID: PMC2998593 · DOI:10.1037/a0020551

The cost of attending to a visual event can be the failure to consciously detect other events. This processing limitation is well illustrated by the attentional blink paradigm, in which searching for and attending to a target presented in a rapid serial visual presentation stream of distractors can impair one's ability to detect a second target presented soon thereafter. The attentional blink critically depends on 'top-down' attentional settings, for it does not occur if participants are asked to ignore the first target. Here we show that 'bottom-up' attention can also lead to a profound but ephemeral deficit in conscious perception: Presentation of a novel, unexpected, and task-irrelevant stimulus virtually abolishes conscious detection of a target presented within half a second after the 'Surprise' stimulus, but only for its earliest occurrences (generally 1 to 2 presentations). This powerful but short-lived deficit contrasts with a milder but more enduring form of attentional capture that accompanies singleton presentations in rapid serial visual presentations. We conclude that the capture of stimulus-driven attention alone can limit explicit perception.

MeSH Terms (13)

Attentional Blink Blinking Discrimination (Psychology) Face Female Habituation, Psychophysiologic Humans Male Memory, Short-Term Pattern Recognition, Visual Psychophysics Reflex, Startle Set (Psychology)

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