Manipulating inattentional blindness within and across sensory modalities

TitleManipulating inattentional blindness within and across sensory modalities
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSinnett S, Costa A, Soto-Faraco S
JournalThe Quarterly journal of experimental psychology
KeywordsAtención, Attention, Audición, audition, Cécité inattentionnelle, Cognición, Cognition, Hearing, Hombre, Homme, Human, Intermodal perception, Langage, Language, Lenguaje, Modalidad est\'ımulo, Modalité stimulus, Mot, Palabra, Percepción, Percepción intermodal, Perception, Perception intermodale, Recognition, Reconnaissance, Reconocimiento, Stimulus modality, Vision, Word

People often fail to consciously perceive visual events that are outside the focus of attention, a phenomenon referred to as inattentional blindness or IB (i.e., Mack & Rock, 1998). Here, we investigated IB for words within and across sensory modalities (visually and auditorily) in order to assess whether dividing attention across different senses has the same consequences as dividing attention within an individual sensory modality. Participants were asked to monitor a rapid stream of pictures or sounds presented concurrently with task-irrelevant words (spoken or written). A word recognition test was used to measure the processing for unattended words compared to word recognition levels after explicitly monitoring the word stream. We were able to produce high levels of IB for visually and auditorily presented words under unimodal conditions (Experiment 1) as well as under cross-modal conditions (Experiment 2). A further manipulation revealed, however, that IB is less prevalent when attention is divided across modalities than within the same modality (Experiment 3). These findings are explained in terms of the attentional load hypothesis and suggest that, contrary to some claims, attention resources are to a certain extent shared across sensory modalities.