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28-07-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2016

Psychological Research 5/2016

Inducing attention not to blink: auditory entrainment improves conscious visual processing

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2016
Luca Ronconi, Hannah L. Pincham, Dénes Szűcs, Andrea Facoetti


Our ability to allocate attention at different moments in time can sometimes fail to select stimuli occurring in close succession, preventing visual information from reaching awareness. This so-called attentional blink (AB) occurs when the second of two targets (T2) is presented closely after the first (T1) in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). We hypothesized that entrainment to a rhythmic stream of stimuli—before visual targets appear—would reduce the AB. Experiment 1 tested the effect of auditory entrainment by presenting sounds with a regular or irregular interstimulus interval prior to a RSVP where T1 and T2 were separated by three possible lags (1, 3 and 8). Experiment 2 examined visual entrainment by presenting visual stimuli in place of auditory stimuli. Results revealed that irrespective of sensory modality, arrhythmic stimuli preceding the RSVP triggered an alerting effect that improved the T2 identification at lag 1, but impaired the recovery from the AB at lag 8. Importantly, only auditory rhythmic entrainment was effective in reducing the AB at lag 3. Our findings demonstrate that manipulating the pre-stimulus condition can reduce deficits in temporal attention characterizing the human cognitive architecture, suggesting innovative trainings for acquired and neurodevelopmental disorders.

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