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Steven B. Most, Maria Kuvaldina, Kyle Dobson, Briana L. Kennedy; Prior perceptual decisions drive subsequent perceptual experience: Negative priming increases inattentional blindness. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):159. doi: 10.1167/11.11.159.
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The capacity of visual awareness is limited, with people often failing to see unexpected stimuli that appear in front of their eyes, a phenomenon known as inattentional blindness (IB). People can modulate IB in the moment by prioritizing subsets of the features before them, but to what degree do perceptual decisions at one time impact rates of IB down the line? For example, does a history of ignoring a particular feature lead to decreased noticing of that feature later? To test this, we combined an inattentional blindness paradigm with a negative priming procedure. On 49 trials, a cross appeared for 200-ms before being masked and participants judged the relative lengths of its horizontal and vertical extents. On the final trial, a green or red triangle appeared in one of the cross's quadrants, and participants were probed for their awareness of it. Importantly, interleaved with the first 48 of these trials were “digit task” trials, in which a green and red digit appeared simultaneously, each in what would have been one of the cross's quadrants. Half of the participants were instructed always to identify the green digit and half always identified the red digit. Thus, the triangle's color on the final trial was the same as either the attended digits (positive priming) or the ignored digits (negative priming). We additionally incorporated a neutral condition, in which only one digit – the opposite color as the triangle – appeared on each “digit task” trial, negating the need to ignore any non-target colors. Results revealed that although IB rates were nearly identical in the neutral and positive priming conditions (20% and 25%, respectively), IB was significantly higher in the negative priming condition (48%). Thus, attentional decisions not only modulate perception in the moment; they also continue to govern the contents of awareness down the line.
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