Visual distraction increases the detection of an unexpected object in inattentional blindness

K. Pammer, H. Korrel, Jason Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


© 2015, © 2015 Taylor & Francis. Distraction is typically thought to be detrimental to performance and concentration, and stimuli are classified as “distractions” if they take attention away from a primary task. However it has been shown that, under certain circumstances, distractors can also improve task performance. The current study extends this literature by exploring the role of a single discrete transient visual distracting event in increasing attention to an unexpected visual object in an inattentional blindness (IB) paradigm. Experiment 1 investigated the impact of a 48 ms visual distraction stimulus on rates of IB; a second experiment used a shortened, 16 ms visual distracting event. Both the long 48 ms and brief 16 ms distractors significantly reduced overall IB rates, by approximately 50% compared to a no distractor condition. Moreover, this reduction in IB is obtained independent of whether the visual distracting event was noted by the observer. Our findings demonstrate that a single discrete visual distraction can improve the detectability of an unexpected object in an IB task. Implications for theories of distributed attention in such tasks are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1173-1183
JournalVisual Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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