Does working memory capacity predict cross-modally induced failures of awareness?

Carina Kreitz, Philip Furley, Daniel J. Simons, Daniel Memmert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People often fail to notice unexpected stimuli when they are focusing attention on another task. Most studies of this phenomenon address visual failures induced by visual attention tasks (inattentional blindness). Yet, such failures also occur within audition (inattentional deafness), and people can even miss unexpected events in one sensory modality when focusing attention on tasks in another modality. Such cross-modal failures are revealing because they suggest the existence of a common, central resource limitation. And, such central limits might be predicted from individual differences in cognitive capacity. We replicated earlier evidence, establishing substantial rates of inattentional deafness during a visual task and inattentional blindness during an auditory task. However, neither individual working memory capacity nor the ability to perform the primary task predicted noticing in either modality. Thus, individual differences in cognitive capacity did not predict failures of awareness even though the failures presumably resulted from central resource limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Cross-modal
  • Inattentional blindness
  • Inattentional deafness
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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