Inattentional blindness and individual differences in cognitive abilities

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People sometimes fail to notice salient unexpected objects when their attention is otherwise occupied, a phenomenon known as inattentional blindness. To explore individual differences in inattentional blindness, we employed both static and dynamic tasks that either presented the unexpected object away from the focus of attention (spatial) or near the focus of attention (central). We hypothesized that noticing in central tasks might be driven by the availability of cognitive resources like working memory, and that noticing in spatial tasks might be driven by the limits on spatial attention like attention breadth. However, none of the cognitive measures predicted noticing in the dynamic central task or in either the static or dynamic spatial task. Only in the central static task did working memory capacity predict noticing, and that relationship was fairly weak. Furthermore, whether or not participants noticed an unexpected object in a static task was only weakly associated with their odds of noticing an unexpected object in a dynamic task. Taken together, our results are largely consistent with the notion that noticing unexpected objects is driven more by stochastic processes common to all people than by stable individual differences in cognitive abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0134675
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 10 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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