Conditions of Directed Attention Inhibit Recognition Performance for Target-Aligned Stimuli


Watanabe, Náñez & Sasak (2001) demonstrated that the perceptual learning of task-irrelevant items was enhanced under conditions when attentional resources were diverted away from the irrelevant stimuli. However, the current study suggests that when attention is depleted, recognition for task-irrelevant items is impaired in a subsequent recognition task. Participants were presented with a stream of simultaneously presented written words and line drawings, and required to respond to immediate repetitions in either the word or picture stream. A surprise recognition test measured performance for the words. When analyzing word recognition performance after attention had been directed to the pictures, words that had previously appeared when attention was most depleted (i.e., with a picture repetition in the primary task) were recognized at levels significantly below chance. This novel finding suggests that information that is actively ignored when appearing in conjunction with an attended stimulus is subsequently inhibited in a recognition task.

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