Psychonomic bulletin & review

The perceptual wink model of non-switching attentional blink tasks.

PMID 29030758


The attentional blink (AB) is a temporary deficit for a second target (T2) when that target appears after a first target (T1). Although sophisticated models have been developed to explain the substantial AB literature in isolation, the current study considers how the AB relates to perceptual dynamics more broadly. We show that the time-course of the AB is closely related to the time course of the transition from positive to negative repetition priming effects in perceptual identification. Many AB tasks involve a switch between a T1 defined in one manner and a T2 defined in a different manner. Other AB tasks are non-switching, with all targets belonging to the same well-known category (e.g., letter targets versus number distractors) or sharing the same perceptual feature. We propose that these non-switching AB tasks reflect perceptual habituation for the target-defining attribute; thus, a 'perceptual wink', with perception of one attribute (target identity) undisturbed while perception of another (target detection) is impaired. On this account, the immediate benefit following T1 (lag-1 sparing) reflects positive repetition priming and the subsequent deficit (the blink) reflects negative repetition priming for the realization that a target occurred. In developing the perceptual wink model, we extended the nROUSE model of perceptual priming to explain the results of two new experiments combining the AB and identity repetitions. This establishes important connections between non-switching AB tasks and perceptual dynamics.