Blinded by the load: Attention, awareness and the role of perceptual load

Nilli Lavie, Diane M. Beck, Nikos Konstantinou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

What is the relationship between attention and conscious awareness? Awareness sometimes appears to be restricted to the contents of focused attention, yet at other times irrelevant distractors will dominate awareness. This contradictory relationship has also been reflected in an abundance of discrepant research findings leading to an enduring controversy in cognitive psychology. Lavie's load theory of attention suggests that the puzzle can be solved by considering the role of perceptual load. Although distractors will intrude upon awareness in conditions of low load, awareness will be restricted to the content of focused attention when the attended information involves high perceptual load. Here, we review recent evidence for this proposal with an emphasis on the various subjective blindness phenomena, and their neural correlates, induced by conditions of high perceptual load. We also present novel findings that clarify the role of attention in the response to stimulus contrast. Overall, this article demonstrates a critical role for perceptual load across the spectrum of perceptual processes leading to awareness, from the very early sensory responses related to contrast detection to explicit recognition of semantic content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume369
Issue number1641
DOIs
StatePublished - May 5 2014

Fingerprint

blindness
psychology
Semantics
Blindness
Psychology
Research

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Change blindness
  • Conscious visual awareness
  • Contrast response function
  • Inattentional blindness
  • Perceptual load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

Blinded by the load : Attention, awareness and the role of perceptual load. / Lavie, Nilli; Beck, Diane M.; Konstantinou, Nikos.

In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 369, No. 1641, 05.05.2014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{cbbf13827a034a7aadbb4d6d8559ff93,
title = "Blinded by the load: Attention, awareness and the role of perceptual load",
abstract = "What is the relationship between attention and conscious awareness? Awareness sometimes appears to be restricted to the contents of focused attention, yet at other times irrelevant distractors will dominate awareness. This contradictory relationship has also been reflected in an abundance of discrepant research findings leading to an enduring controversy in cognitive psychology. Lavie's load theory of attention suggests that the puzzle can be solved by considering the role of perceptual load. Although distractors will intrude upon awareness in conditions of low load, awareness will be restricted to the content of focused attention when the attended information involves high perceptual load. Here, we review recent evidence for this proposal with an emphasis on the various subjective blindness phenomena, and their neural correlates, induced by conditions of high perceptual load. We also present novel findings that clarify the role of attention in the response to stimulus contrast. Overall, this article demonstrates a critical role for perceptual load across the spectrum of perceptual processes leading to awareness, from the very early sensory responses related to contrast detection to explicit recognition of semantic content.",
keywords = "Attention, Change blindness, Conscious visual awareness, Contrast response function, Inattentional blindness, Perceptual load",
author = "Nilli Lavie and Beck, {Diane M.} and Nikos Konstantinou",
year = "2014",
month = "5",
day = "5",
doi = "10.1098/rstb.2013.0205",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "369",
journal = "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences",
issn = "0800-4622",
publisher = "Royal Society of London",
number = "1641",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Blinded by the load

T2 - Attention, awareness and the role of perceptual load

AU - Lavie, Nilli

AU - Beck, Diane M.

AU - Konstantinou, Nikos

PY - 2014/5/5

Y1 - 2014/5/5

N2 - What is the relationship between attention and conscious awareness? Awareness sometimes appears to be restricted to the contents of focused attention, yet at other times irrelevant distractors will dominate awareness. This contradictory relationship has also been reflected in an abundance of discrepant research findings leading to an enduring controversy in cognitive psychology. Lavie's load theory of attention suggests that the puzzle can be solved by considering the role of perceptual load. Although distractors will intrude upon awareness in conditions of low load, awareness will be restricted to the content of focused attention when the attended information involves high perceptual load. Here, we review recent evidence for this proposal with an emphasis on the various subjective blindness phenomena, and their neural correlates, induced by conditions of high perceptual load. We also present novel findings that clarify the role of attention in the response to stimulus contrast. Overall, this article demonstrates a critical role for perceptual load across the spectrum of perceptual processes leading to awareness, from the very early sensory responses related to contrast detection to explicit recognition of semantic content.

AB - What is the relationship between attention and conscious awareness? Awareness sometimes appears to be restricted to the contents of focused attention, yet at other times irrelevant distractors will dominate awareness. This contradictory relationship has also been reflected in an abundance of discrepant research findings leading to an enduring controversy in cognitive psychology. Lavie's load theory of attention suggests that the puzzle can be solved by considering the role of perceptual load. Although distractors will intrude upon awareness in conditions of low load, awareness will be restricted to the content of focused attention when the attended information involves high perceptual load. Here, we review recent evidence for this proposal with an emphasis on the various subjective blindness phenomena, and their neural correlates, induced by conditions of high perceptual load. We also present novel findings that clarify the role of attention in the response to stimulus contrast. Overall, this article demonstrates a critical role for perceptual load across the spectrum of perceptual processes leading to awareness, from the very early sensory responses related to contrast detection to explicit recognition of semantic content.

KW - Attention

KW - Change blindness

KW - Conscious visual awareness

KW - Contrast response function

KW - Inattentional blindness

KW - Perceptual load

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84896261602&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84896261602&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1098/rstb.2013.0205

DO - 10.1098/rstb.2013.0205

M3 - Article

C2 - 24639578

AN - SCOPUS:84896261602

VL - 369

JO - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

JF - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

SN - 0800-4622

IS - 1641

ER -