Unmasking the attentional blink

Mark R. Nieuwenstein, Mary C. Potter, Jan Theeuwes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


When asked to identify 2 visual targets (T I and T2 for the 1st and 2nd targets. respectively) embedded in a sequence of distractors, observers will often fail to identify T2 when it appears within 200-500 Ins of T1-an effect called the attentional blink. Recent work shows that attention does not blink when the task is to encode a sequence of consecutive targets, suggesting that distractor interference plays a causal role in the attentional blink. Here, however, the authors show that an attentional blink occurs even in the absence of distractors, with 2 letter targets separated by a blank interval. In addition, the authors found that the impairment for identification of the 2nd of 2 targets separated by a blank interval is substantially attenuated either when the intertarget interval is filled with additional target items or when the 2nd target is precued by an additional target. These findings show that the root cause of the blink lies in the difficulty of engaging attention twice within a short period of time for 2 temporally discrete target events.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology : Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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