The Attentional Blink Reveals the Probabilistic Nature of Discrete Conscious Perception

Christopher L. Asplund, Daryl Fougnie, Samir Zughni, Justin W. Martin, René Marois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attention and awareness are two tightly coupled processes that have been the subject of the same enduring debate: Are they allocated in a discrete or in a graded fashion? Using the attentional blink paradigm and mixture-modeling analysis, we show that awareness arises at central stages of information processing in an all-or-none manner. Manipulating the temporal delay between two targets affected subjects' likelihood of consciously perceiving the second target, but did not affect the precision of its representation. Furthermore, these results held across stimulus categories and paradigms, and they were dependent on attention having been allocated to the first target. The findings distinguish the fundamental contributions of attention and awareness at central stages of visual cognition: Conscious perception emerges in a quantal manner, with attention serving to modulate the probability that representations reach awareness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)824-831
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • attention
  • cognitive processes
  • consciousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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