The attentional blink in space and time

Vision Res. 2002 Aug;42(17):2039-50. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(02)00129-3.


We report the results of two experiments addressing spatiotemporal variations in the "attentional blink" (AB). In the first experiment, six streams of letters were presented simultaneously around a circle on a screen. The identity of the letters changed every 140 ms. The task was to identify two target digits (T1 and T2) that could appear in any of the streams with a variable time lag between the two. The results show that the AB is not constant across space and that following the allocation of attention to a certain location (the location of T1), discrimination can be better at locations quite far away from T1, than at locations closest to T1. Furthermore, performance at the farthest locations seemed to recover sooner from the AB than locations closer to where T1 appeared. Similar results were obtained in a second experiment where observers performed a cued discrimination task. The results accord well with the proposal that there is a region around the attended site (the center of attention) where attentional resolution is particularly poor, worse than at sites further away from the attended one. We propose that this reflects lateral inhibition of neurons responsive to the region around the attended site, with the goal of suppressing potentially distracting or interfering information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time
  • Time Factors