Are Familiar Objects More Likely to Be Noticed in an Inattentional Blindness Task?

Yifan Ding, Daniel J. Simons, Connor M. Hults, Rishi Raja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People often fail to notice the presence of unexpected objects when their attention is engaged elsewhere. In dichotic listening tasks, for example, people often fail to notice unexpected content in the ignored speech stream even though they occasionally do notice highly familiar stimuli like their own name (the “cocktail party” effect). Some of the first studies of inattentional blindness were designed as a visual analog of such dichotic listening studies, but relatively few inattentional blindness studies have examined how familiarity affects noticing. We conducted four preregistered inattentional blindness experiments (total N = 1700) to examine whether people are more likely to notice a familiar unexpected object than an unfamiliar one. Experiment 1 replicated evidence for greater noticing of upright schematic faces than inverted or scrambled ones. Experiments 2–4 tested whether participants from different pairs of countries would be more likely to notice their own nation’s flag or petrol company logo than those of another country. These experiments repeatedly found little or no evidence that familiarity affects noticing rates for unexpected objects. Frequently encountered and highly familiar stimuli do not appear to overcome inattentional blindness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • awareness
  • cocktail party effect
  • familiarity
  • inattentional blindness
  • noticing
  • selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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