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Isabel Arend, Stephen Johnston, Kimron Shapiro; Illusory motion attenuates the attentional blink. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):105. doi: 10.1167/5.8.105.
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Attempts to report the identity of two temporally closely spaced ‘targets’ leads to a phenomenon known as the “attentional blink” (AB; Raymond, Shapiro, & Arnell, 1992). The AB has been replicated many times, though a number of experimental situations have emerged where the phenomenon does not occur. Recently, one such report by Olivers and Nieuwenhuis (in press) revealed that, with only the addition a non task-demanding musical background, the AB is largely attenuated. The authors contend that music creates an ‘attentional state’ that reduces the dual-target interference to which we refer as the AB. In the present experiment, we sought to determine if 1) the background must be auditory, at the same time creating a cross-modal stimulus condition, and 2) if there might be a spatial attentional component. In three conditions we required different groups of participants to perform an AB task at the centre of the display. The AB task required two black digit targets to be identified from within a non-target distractor stream of black letters. In two of the three groups, we created an apparent motion background with a field of dots moving in one group away from the central AB task and in the other group toward the central task. In the control group, the same number of dots remained stationery. The control group revealed a normal AB, recovering by 450 msec. In contrast, both ‘motion’ background groups revealed an attenuated AB, with the greatest attenuation occurring in the ‘moving outward’ condition. We argue that 1) the effect shown by Olivers and Nieuwenhuis is not limited to an auditory background (and thus may be shown within- as well as between- modalities), and 2) is sensitive to a spatial attentional manipulation such as is created by the illusion of apparent motion. We speculate that ours and the original effect shown by Olivers and Nieuwenhuis may be due to the background task attenuating an unnecessary over-allocation of attention to the first target.
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