Voluntary eyeblinks disrupt iconic memory

Laura E. Thomas, David E. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present research, we investigated whether eyeblinks interfere with cognitive processing. In Experiment 1, the participants performed a partial-report iconic memory task in which a letter array was presented for 106 msec, followed 50, 150, or 750 msec later by a tone that cued recall of one row of the array. At a cue delay of 50 msec between array offset and cue onset, letter report accuracy was lower when the participants blinked following array presentation than under no-blink conditions; the participants made more mislocation errors under blink conditions. This result suggests that bunking interferes with the binding of object identity and object position in iconic memory. Experiment 2 demonstrated that interference due to blinks was not due merely to changes in light intensity. Experiments 3 and 4 demonstrated that other motor responses did not interfere with iconic memory. We propose a new phenomenon, cognitive blink suppression, in which blinking inhibits cognitive processing. This phenomenon may be due to neural interference. Blinks reduce activation in area VI, which may interfere with the representation of information in iconic memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-488
Number of pages14
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • General Psychology


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