A Window of Perception When Diverting Attention? Enhancing Recognition For Explicitly Presented, Unattended, and Irrelevant Visual Stimuli by Target Alignment


Irrelevant, but overtly presented, stimuli that are temporally aligned with an attended target in a separate task are later inhibited in a recognition task (Dewald, Doumas, & Sinnett, 2011). This is contrary to findings in the perceptual learning literature where facilitation has been observed for later recognition of irrelevant motion stimuli, albeit after extensive exposure rates. Here, we adapted previous work to include higher exposure rates, and subsequently observed a reversal in inhibition in favor of enhanced recognition performance. Participants responded to immediate picture repetitions in a stream of line drawings while ignoring simultaneously presented superimposed words. A surprise test measured recognition for the unattended words. Words that had previously appeared simultaneously with a repeated picture were recognized significantly more often than words that had appeared with non-repeating pictures. The findings suggest that the exposure rate and the quantity of irrelevant stimuli can have a significant impact on whether perception is inhibited or facilitated.

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