Memory & Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 601–608 | Cite as

Selective looking and the noticing of unexpected events

  • Robert Becklen
  • Daniel Cervone


Subjects in a selective-looking paradigm (Neisser & Becklen, 1975) attended to one of two visually superimposed videotaped ballgames by responding every time the ball was passed in the target game. An unexpected, yet highly visually conspicuous, event, occurring about halfway through the l-rain game sequence, was noticed by only 18 of 85 subjects. Noticing was unrelated to the delay between the event and the posttrial inquiry, and explicit “iconic” instructions to describe the last image seen immediately after interruption proved ineffective in enhancing noticing rates, despite optimal visual conditions). Instead, noticing appeared to be related to the specific anticipatory possibilities within the attended sequence itself. Content analysis indicated that the latter part of the unexpected event sequence afforded greater anticipatory opportunities, and the findings suggested that noticers who were skilled at the main task were more likely to detect the event during this part, whereas unskilled noticers showed no such pattern. Results were consistent with and interpreted in terms of Neisser’s (1976) notion of the “perceptual cycle.”


Dichotic Listening Posttrial Inquiry Full Group Partial Group Game Sequence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Reference Notes

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    Neisser, U., & Dube, E. F.Interrupting the perceptual cycle: When do we notice unexpected events? Paper presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., March 1978.Google Scholar
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    Neisser, U., & Rooney, P.Noticing unexpected events in selective looking: A new criterion. Unpublished manuscript, 1982.Google Scholar
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    Becklen, R.A method for determining percent on-target time in continuous attention experiments with varying target- and response-probabilities. Unpublished manuscript, 1983.Google Scholar


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Becklen
    • 1
  • Daniel Cervone
    • 2
  1. 1.Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmore
  2. 2.Stanford UniversityStanford

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