Probing the flexibility of selection when attention fails
UC Santa Barbara
Abstract Selective attention is often conceived of as a dynamic, flexible mechanism that helps us cope with a complex environment, in which multiple sources of information compete for the control of behavior and representation in awareness. Despite this common notion, dual task studies that measure the temporal distribution of attention, such as studies of the attentional blink (AB), paint an entirely different picture consistently demonstrating that selective attention is more rigid and operates a relatively late stage of processing. I will present a series of studies that investigate whether these latter findings are indicative of the operation of a unique and rigid attentional mechanism or whether they represent the operation of a mechanism that is more general. I will argue that there is clear evidence of flexibility of selection during the AB, and that this flexibility represents the perceptual and cognitive dynamics of a more general attention mechanism.