Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 670–675 | Cite as

Animacy, perceptual load, and inattentional blindness

  • Dustin P. Calvillo
  • Russell E. Jackson
Brief Report


Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice unexpected objects in a visual scene while engaging in an attention-demanding task. We examined the effects of animacy and perceptual load on inattentional blindness. Participants searched for a category exemplar under low or high perceptual load. On the last trial, the participants were exposed to an unexpected object that was either animate or inanimate. Unexpected objects were detected more frequently when they were animate rather than inanimate, and more frequently with low than with high perceptual loads. We also measured working memory capacity and found that it predicted the detection of unexpected objects, but only with high perceptual loads. The results are consistent with the animate-monitoring hypothesis, which suggests that animate objects capture attention because of the importance of the detection of animate objects in ancestral hunter–gatherer environments.


Animacy Inattentional blindness Perceptual load Working memory Evolutionary psychology Visual attention 


Author note

We thank Sandra Alvarado for contributions to all aspects of this project, and Josefina Olvera, Danielle Kramer, Ashley Kubista, Amanda Pedersen, Alejandra Garcia, Nyeesha Hale, Chelsea Skolnick, and Lauren Wright for assistance with data collection.

Supplementary material

13423_2013_543_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (122 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 122 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentCalifornia State University San MarcosSan MarcosUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Communication StudiesUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA

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