Animacy, perceptual load, and inattentional blindness
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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.
KeywordsAnimacy Inattentional blindness Perceptual load Working memory Evolutionary psychology Visual attention
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.
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