The attentional blink unveils the interplay between conscious perception, spatial attention and working memory encoding

Eyal Alef Ophir, Guido Hesselmann, Dominique Lamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Our ability to perceive two events in close temporal succession is severely limited, a phenomenon known as the attentional blink. While the blink has served as a popular tool to prevent conscious perception, there is less research on its causes, and in particular on the role of conscious perception of the first event in triggering it. In three experiments, we disentangled the roles of spatial attention, conscious perception and working memory (WM) in causing the blink. We show that while allocating spatial attention to T1 is neither necessary nor sufficient for eliciting a blink, consciously perceiving it is necessary but not sufficient. When T1 was task irrelevant, consciously perceiving it triggered a blink only when it matched the attentional set for T2. We conclude that consciously perceiving a task-relevant event causes the blink, possibly because it triggers encoding of this event into WM. We discuss the implications of these findings for the relationship between spatial attention, conscious perception and WM, as well as for the distinction between access and phenomenal consciousness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103008
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume85
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Attentional blink
  • Attentional capture
  • Awareness
  • Conscious perception
  • Consciousness
  • Fragile memory
  • Phenomenal consciousness
  • Spatial attention
  • Working memory

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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