Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 339–351

Task switching mediates the attentional blink even without backward masking


    • Department of PsychologyHiroshima University
  • Samantha M. Zuvic
    • University of British Columbia
  • James T. Enns
    • University of British Columbia
  • Vincent Di Lollo
    • University of British Columbia

DOI: 10.3758/BF03194565

Cite this article as:
Kawahara, J.-., Zuvic, S.M., Enns, J.T. et al. Perception & Psychophysics (2003) 65: 339. doi:10.3758/BF03194565


When two targets are presented in rapid succession, perception of the second target is impaired at short intertarget lags (100–700 msec). Thisattentional blink (AB) is thought to occur only when the second target is backward masked. To the contrary, we show that task switching between the targets can produce an AB even without masking (Experiments 1 and 3). Further, we show that task switching produces an AB only when the second target does not belong to a class of overlearned stimuli such as letters or digits (Experiments 1 and 4). When the second target is masked, however, an AB is invariably obtained regardless of switching or overlearning. We propose that task switching involves a timeconsuming process of reconfiguration of the visual system, during which the representation of the second target decays beyond recognition, resulting in an AB deficit. We suggest that overlearned stimuli are encoded in a form that, while maskable, decays relatively slowly, thus outlasting the delay due to reconfiguration and avoiding the AB deficit.

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2003