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Encoding suppression: Linking spatial cueing costs to the attentional blink

53.514, Tuesday, 20-May, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Attention: Spatial selection

Hui chen1, Brad Wyble1; 1Psychology Department, Pennsylvania State University

Spatial cueing and the attentional blink are two well-known effects that have been extensively investigated. Each of them has been separately explained by various theories. In the present study, we established a common explanatory framework for these two seemingly disparate phenomena in terms of encoding suppression theory. Specifically, we employed a typical spatial cueing paradigm in which a cue (valid, invalid, or neutral (no cue)) appeared before a target letter and asked participants to report the target but ignore the cue. In addition, we systematically manipulated the SOA (100, 200, 300, 500, and 700ms) between cue and target. The results showed that participants performed much worse in invalid than in neutral conditions at 100ms SOA, and this effect disappeared when the SOA increased to 200 ms or longer. Another series of experiments from our lab demonstrated that subjects encoded the location of a cue even when asked to ignore it. Therefore, we suggest that the cue location was automatically encoded into memory and this encoding suppresses attention, which impairs the report of a subsequent target as suggested by models of the attentional blink (Bowman & Wyble 2007). We tested this theory by asking participants to report the location or color of a cue (T1) as well as the target letter (T2) and found that asking subjects to report location produced no additional cost relative to ignoring a cue. However, reporting the color of a cue decreased the ability to report T2, which is consistent with the encoding suppression theory. Furthermore, we increased the difficulty of cue encoding with a mask and found that the encoding suppression effect was strengthened and prolonged which is consistent with attentional blink theories. In conclusion, the present study provided convergent evidence that encoding suppression may underlie both spatial cueing costs and the attentional blink.

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