Inattentional blindness for a noxious multimodal stimulus

Am J Psychol. Fall 2005;118(3):339-52.


Previous research has shown that people can miss salient stimuli outside the focus of their attention. This phenomenon, called inattentional blindness, typically is observed when people are given a task requiring them to focus their attention on one aspect of a complex visual scene. While participants are doing this task, an unexpected stimulus appears, and participants' awareness of it is tested shortly thereafter. In the present experiments, noxious bimodal stimuli were used as a test case to measure the strength of inattentional blindness. We tested whether participants would notice a person enter a scene and scratch her fingernails down a chalkboard (thus making a sound called a "gride"). A large proportion of participants failed to detect this event even when the noxious audio associated with it was strengthened and isolated in time from surrounding noises.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Awareness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / complications*
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Perceptual Disorders / complications*
  • Perceptual Disorders / diagnosis
  • Physical Stimulation*
  • Videotape Recording
  • Visual Perception