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The Sparing Is Far from Spurious: Reevaluating Within-Trial Contingency Effects in the Attentional Blink

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JEPHPP Volume 37, Number 2, ISSN 0096-1523


The attentional blink is the marked deficit in awareness of a 2nd target (T2) when it is presented shortly after the 1st target (T1) in a stream of distractors. When the distractors between T1 and T2 are replaced by even more targets, the attentional blink is reduced or absent, indicating that the attentional blink results from online selection mechanisms that act in response to distracting input rather than being the result of T1-induced cognitive resource depletion. However, Dell'Acqua, Jolicoeur, Luria, and Pluchino (2009) recently contended that an attentional blink is found in the multiple-target case as long as the appropriate trial context and analyses are used, thus reinstating resource-based explanations of the attentional blink and challenging the selection account. Specifically, an attentional blink reemerges when target performance is analyzed contingent on previous target accuracy. We argue on theoretical and empirical grounds that neither the trial context nor the type of analysis poses a serious problem for selection accounts. We show that the attentional blink and previous target contingency effects can be dissociated, with the latter depending more on low-level, short-range competition. We conclude that selection mechanisms involved in filtering for targets still provide a strong and coherent explanation of the attentional blink. (Contains 1 table, 4 figures and 2 footnotes.)


Olivers, C.N.L., Hulleman, J., Spalek, T., Kawahara, J.i. & Di Lollo, V. (2011). The Sparing Is Far from Spurious: Reevaluating Within-Trial Contingency Effects in the Attentional Blink. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37(2), 396-408. Retrieved January 20, 2022 from .

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