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17-01-2018 | Original Article

When the rhythm disappears and the mind keeps dancing: sustained effects of attentional entrainment

Psychological Research
Sabrina Trapp, Ondrej Havlicek, Annett Schirmer, Peter E. Keller


Research has demonstrated that the human cognitive system allocates attention most efficiently to a stimulus that occurs in synchrony with an established rhythmic background. However, our environment is dynamic and constantly changing. What happens when rhythms to which our cognitive system adapted disappear? We addressed this question using a visual categorization task comprising emotional and neutral faces. The task was split into three blocks of which the first and the last were completed in silence. The second block was accompanied by an acoustic background rhythm that, for one group of participants, was synchronous with face presentations, and for another group was asynchronous. Irrespective of group, performance improved with background stimulation. Importantly, improved performance extended into the third silent block for the synchronous, but not for the asynchronous group. These data suggest that attentional entrainment resulting from rhythmic environmental regularities disintegrates only gradually after the regularities disappear.

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