A Boost and Bounce theory of temporal attention

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What is the time course of visual attention? Attentional blink studies have found that the 2nd of 2 targets is often missed when presented within about 500 ms from the 1st target, resulting in theories about relatively long-lasting capacity limitations or bottlenecks. Earlier studies, however, reported quite the opposite finding: Attention is transiently enhanced, rather than reduced, for several hundreds of milliseconds after a relevant event. The authors present a general theory, as well as a working computational model, that integrate these findings. There is no central role for capacity limitations or bottlenecks. Central is a rapidly responding gating system (or attentional filter) that seeks to enhance relevant and suppress irrelevant information. When items sufficiently match the target description, they elicit transient excitatory feedback activity (a "boost" function), meant to provide access to working memory. However, in the attentional blink task, the distractor after the target is accidentally boosted, resulting in subsequent strong inhibitory feedback response (a "bounce"), which, in effect, closes the gate to working memory. The theory explains many findings that are problematic for limited-capacity accounts, including a new experiment showing that the attentional blink can be postponed. © 2008 American Psychological Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-863
JournalPsychological Review American Psychological Association
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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