Do Threat Images Attenuate Change Blindness?

  • January Massin
  • Arien Mack


Inattentional Blindness (Mack & Rock, 1998), the Attentional Blink (Shapiro, 1994) and Change Blindness (Rensink, O'Regan, & Clark, 1997) are all taken as evidence that there is no conscious, visual perception in the absence of focused attention. However, there are some stimuli that have been shown to capture attention even under conditions of inattention, such as one's own name, or a happy face icon. Such stimuli most likely have this unique ability to capture attention, because of their salience, and perhaps to some extent, familiarity. Ro, Russell, and Lavie (2001) found that photographs of human faces also appear to capture our attention by showing that they attenuate Change Blindness in a flicker paradigm. More recently, research by Öhman and Mineka (2003) has suggested that snakes may also be special in their ability to capture attention, mainly due to their evolutionary heritage as a threat stimulus. This study asks:  Will Change Blindness be attenuated for snakes and another threat stimulus (weapons) that do not have a long evolutionary history?


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