The Beneficial Effect of Concurrent Task-Irrelevant Mental Activity on Temporal Attention.

C.N.L. Olivers, S.T. Nieuwenhuis

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Abstract

It is believed that the human cognitive system is fundamentally limited in deploying attention over time. This limitation is reflected in the attentional blink, the impaired ability to identify the second of two visual targets presented in close succession. We report the paradoxical finding that the attentional blink is significantly ameliorated when observers are concurrently engaged in distracting mental activity, such as free-associating on a task-irrelevant theme or listening to music. This finding raises questions about the fundamental nature of the attentional blink, and suggests that the temporal dynamics of attention are determined by task circumstances that induce either a more or a less distributed state of mind. Copyright © 2005 American Psychological Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-269
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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