The effect of eye blinks on short-term memory was examined in two experiments. On each trial, participants viewed an initial display of coloured, oriented lines, then after a retention interval they viewed a test display that was either identical or different by one feature. Participants kept their eyes open throughout the retention interval on some blocks of trials, whereas on others they made a single eye blink. Accuracy was measured as a function of the number of items in the display to determine the capacity of short-term memory on blink and no-blink trials. In separate blocks of trials participants were instructed to remember colour only, orientation only, or both colour and orientation. Eye blinks reduced short-term memory capacity by approximately 0.6–0.8 items for both feature and conjunction stimuli. A third, control, experiment showed that a button press during the retention interval had no effect on short-term memory capacity, indicating that the effect of an eye blink was not due to general motoric dual-task interference. Eye blinks might instead reduce short-term memory capacity by interfering with attention-based rehearsal processes.
- Change detection
- Eye blinks
- Short-term memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)