Individual differences in inattentional blindness

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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

People often fail to notice unexpected objects and events when they are performing an attention-demanding task, a phenomenon known as inattentional blindness. We might expect individual differences in cognitive ability or personality to predict who will and will not notice unexpected objects given that people vary in their ability to perform attention-demanding tasks. We conducted a comprehensive literature search for empirical inattentional blindness reports and identified 38 records that included individual difference measures and met our inclusion criteria. From those, we extracted individual difference effect sizes for 31 records which included a total of 74 distinct, between-groups samples with at least one codable individual difference measure. We conducted separate meta-analyses of the relationship between noticing/missing an unexpected object and scores on each of the 14 cognitive and 19 personality measures in this dataset. We also aggregated across personality measures reflecting positive/negative affectivity or openness/absorption and cognitive measures of interference, attention breadth, and memory. Collectively, these meta-analyses provided little evidence that individual differences in ability or personality predict noticing of an unexpected object. A robustness analysis that excluded samples with extremely low numbers of people who noticed or missed produced similar results. For most measures, the number of samples and the total sample sizes were small, and larger studies are needed to examine individual differences in inattentional blindness more systematically. However, the results are consistent with the idea that noticing of unexpected objects or events differs from deliberate attentional control tasks in that it is not reliably predicted by individual differences in cognitive ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Cognitive ability
  • Inattentional blindness
  • Performance
  • Personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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