Executive working memory load induces inattentional blindness

Daryl Fougnie, René Marois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When attention is engaged in a task, unexpected events in the visual scene may go undetected, a phenomenon known as inattentional blindness (IB). At what stage of information processing must attention be engaged for IB to occur? Although manipulations that tax visuospatial attention can induce IB, the evidence is more equivocal for tasks that engage attention at late, central stages of information processing. Here, we tested whether IB can be specifically induced by central executive processes. An unexpected visual stimulus was presented during the retention interval of a working memory task that involved either simply maintaining verbal material or rearranging the material into alphabetical order. The unexpected stimulus was more likely to be missed during manipulation than during simple maintenance of the verbal information. Thus, the engagement of executive processes impairs the ability to detect unexpected, task-irrelevant stimuli, suggesting that IB can result from central, amodal stages of processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-147
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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