Attentional blink refers to the tiny gap that is created when one shifts his or her focus from one thing to another (Cherry, 2017). Usually, it is barely noticed since it lasts for less than a second. The brain’s attention resources are limited. This explains why when we try to focus on multiple things all at once we cannot fully pay attention to all of them.
Things just seem to simply slide unnoticed. In the CogLab demonstration of attentional blink, a series of letters are flashed in a rapid sequence on a screen. The viewer has to find a specific pair of items, for example, the letters B and E. Observers, in many cases fail to see the second target if it occurs close in time to the first one.
Attentional Blink and Attention
Attention is a behavioral and cognitive concentration process of the discrete aspect of an object or information (Nieuwenstein, Potter & Theeuwes, 2018). The attentional blink occurs when a second target is presented while the brain is still processing the first target. The brain will in such a case ignore the distraction caused by the second target.
Attention is limited hence when an observer focuses on the first target the brain’s attentional resource is depleted causing him or her to fail to see the second target. Experts have suggested that attentional blink helps the brain to focus on processing the first event by ignoring distractions.
Our brains need time to process events that occur. The probability of seeing the second target is affected by the time variation. The change in time determines whether the observer will see the second target or not (Einhäuser, Koch & Makeig, 2018). The first event to occur is processed before moving on to the next event.
If another event occurs while the brain is still processing the first one, then the second event will be simply missed. In the CogLab demonstration of attentional blink the shorter the duration between the first target letter and the second target letter, the lower the probability of seeing the second target letter (Evan J, Irina M & Justin A, 2018). This is explained by the time needed by the brain to process each target letter. The brain will focus on processing the first target and ignore the second target letter.
If there is plenty of time after the first target letter is flashed and before the second target letter appears, then there will be a higher probability of seeing the second target letter. The delay in time between when the first target stimulus is presented and when the second target stimulus appears allows the brain to finish processing the first target then focus on the second target (Badcock, Badcock, Fletcher & Hogben, 2018). This delay essentially makes it possible for the observer to see the second target letter.
Elimination of Attentional Blink
It is not easy to do away with the attentional blink. Nevertheless, studies have shown that meditation and training can reduce the duration of attentional blink thus help individuals to overcome it. Additionally, attentional blink can be eliminated scientifically by training, for example in the CogLab demonstration, the color of the second target can be replaced so that it is different from the first target.
With continuous training and practice, an individual can be able to identify the first and second targets within the same speed succession (Reedijk, Bolders, Colzato & Hommel, 2018). After several months of training, the targets can be reverted to their original colors and the experiment repeated on the same individual. Having retained the brain training, the individual will be able to identify the second target at the same speed.
Other targets that induce the attentional blink
Apart from letters used in the CogLab demonstration, stimuli such as previous attentional sets, distractions, pictures, symbols, and emotional images or human faces can also be used to induce attentional blink. Resource channel is crucial for target identification to show the various effects of different targets on the attentional blink.
Targets such as symbols or faces, for instance, use independent neural networks to realize various perceptual as well as cognitive acts. Experts have used different targets, for instance, a symbol for a first target and a face for the second target, to eliminate attentional blink. An observer can easily identify the second target when different targets are used.
As opposed to letters used in the CogLab demonstration, faces are more conspicuous and a face image, in many cases creates a pop-out phenomenon on the cognitive process of an individual. Unlike letters, some symbols may be very unfamiliar and difficult to identify.
An emotional target such as a human face can also induce an attentional blink. Upon the appearance of an irrelevant emotional stimulus, an individual may fail to detect the target stimuli. The emotionally arousing stimulus captures the attention of the observer making him or her blind to the target stimulus for several hundred microseconds. As compared to letters used in the CogLab demonstration, emotional targets are familiar to any individuals hence can easily be detected.
Certain types of target stimuli for attentional blink can be easy to detect, unlike others. As I have observed that many emotional targets are familiar to any individuals, hence they can be easily detected. Letters and numbers are also familiar since we see them more often. However, some symbols may be new to an individual hence he or she may not easily identify them. There will be an increase in response time when an unfamiliar stimulus is presented.
Occupations affected by Attentional Blink
Attentional blink affects performance in various occupations. Such occupations include the following:
Bankers usually group notes based on denomination for ease of counting. Suppose a different denomination of note, say $50 is accidentally mixed with the $100 notes. The banker may fail to notice the $50 note among the $100 notes and mistakenly count it as a $100 note.
Air Traffic Controller
Air Traffic Controllers undertake auditory and visual monitoring to control the flow of Air traffic. This task requires sharp memory and attention. Miscommunication, memory failure, or inattention can lead to Operational Error (Xing & Bailey, 2018). It is important to ensure that their capacity limits of memory and attention are not exceeded.
Sports broadcasters observe and report live events. This requires their attention. Otherwise, they may give the wrong information. A lot of activities are usually going on during the live broadcast such as game stories, music, among others. Distraction or inattention can lead to misinformation, for instance, the broadcaster may mention the wrong player.
Heads-up Display (HUD)
A heads-up display refers to a transparent display used to present data. It produces images in parallel light and numerous colors. The user can view the data displayed on HUD without looking away from the designated viewpoint. It is a safety tool for drivers as it allows them to keep their eyes on the road while viewing the data displayed on HUD. Accidents caused by drivers taking their eyes off the road while looking at the dashboard display are thus minimized with the help of HUD (Drurry, 2018).
By looking at the dashboard display, the drivers have their attention divided as they drive blind for a few meters. Besides, HUD is useful in bad weather since it shows direction hence aiding the driver. Consequently, it helps to reduce accidents by maintaining the driver’s focus and attention on the road and what is in front of him or her. However, HUD may also lead to attentional blink since it is in the driver’s view and may draw his or her attention leading to an accident.
Drurry, M. (2018). Continental Head-up Display Augmented Reality HUD. Continental Head-up Display. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from http://continental-head-up-display.com/
Reedijk, S., Bolders, A., Colzato, L., & Hommel, B. (2018). Eliminating the Attentional Blink through Binaural Beats: A Case for Tailored Cognitive Enhancement. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from
Badcock, N., Badcock, D., Fletcher, J., & Hogben, J. (2018). The role of preparation time in the attentional blink. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from
Nieuwenstein, M., Potter, M., & Theeuwes, J. (2018). Unmasking the attentional blink.. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from
Einhäuser, W., Koch, C., & Makeig, S. (2018). The duration of the attentional blink in natural scenes depends on stimulus category. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from
Xing, J., & Bailey, L. (2018). Attention and memory in air traffic control tasks. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from
Cherry, K. (2017). What Is Attentional Blink and Why Does It Happen?. Verywell Mind. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-attentional-blink-2795017
Evan J, L., Irina M, H., & Justin A, H. (2018). Search-proquest-com.libproxy.edmc.edu. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.edmc.edu/docview/614494049
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