, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 353-368

Selective attention and subjective confidence calibration


In the present experiments, failures of selective visual attention were invoked using the B. A. Eriksen and C. W. Eriksen (1974) flanker task. On each trial, a three-letter stimulus array was flashed briefly, followed by a mask. The identity of the two flanking letters was response congruent, neutral, or incongruent with the identity of the middle target letter. On half of the trials, confidence ratings were obtained after each response. In the first three experiments, participants were highly overconfident in the accuracy of their responding to incongruent flanker stimulus arrays. In a final experiment, presenting a prestimulus target location cue greatly reduced both selective attention failure and overconfidence. The findings demonstrate that participants are often unaware of such selective attention failures and provide support for the notion that, in these cases, decisional processing is driven largely by the identities of the incongruent flankers. In addition, responding was invariably slower and sometimes more accurate when confidence was required than when it was not required, demonstrating that the need to provide posttrial confidence reports can affect decisional processing. Moreover, there was some evidence that the presence of neutral contextual flanking information can slow responding, suggesting that such nondiagnostic information can, indeed, contribute to decisional processing.