The attentional blink provides episodic distinctiveness: sparing at a cost

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2009 Jun;35(3):787-807. doi: 10.1037/a0013902.


The attentional blink (J. E. Raymond, K. L. Shapiro, & K. M. Arnell, 1992) refers to an apparent gap in perception observed when a second target follows a first within several hundred milliseconds. Theoretical and computational work have provided explanations for early sets of blink data, but more recent data have challenged these accounts by showing that the blink is attenuated when subjects encode strings of stimuli (J. Kawahara, T. Kumada, & V. Di Lollo, 2006; M. R. Nieuwenstein & M. C. Potter, 2006; C. N. Olivers, 2007) or are distracted (C. N. Olivers & S. Nieuwenhuis, 2005) while viewing the rapid serial visual presentation stream. The authors describe the episodic simultaneous type, serial token model, a computational account of encoding visual stimuli into working memory that suggests that the attentional blink is a cognitive strategy rather than a resource limitation. This model is composed of neurobiologically plausible elements and simulates the attentional blink with a competitive attentional mechanism that facilitates the formation of episodically distinct representations within working memory. In addition to addressing the blink, the model addresses the phenomena of repetition blindness and whole report superiority, producing predictions that are supported by experimental work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attentional Blink*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Models, Psychological
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time*
  • Refractory Period, Psychological
  • Serial Learning*
  • Young Adult