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Open Access Publications from the University of California

In the blink of an eye? Evidence for a reduced attentional blink for eyes


Eye contact serves as an important social signal and humans show a special sensitivity for detecting eyes. Here, we asked whether people’s sensitivity to eyes would enable them to overcome temporal limitations in visual attention. We used an "attentional blink" (AB) paradigm, in which the second of two visual stimuli presented in quick succession typically cannot be detected. Participants performed a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) task and were asked to identify, within a stream of symbols, a target and to detect whether the target was succeeded by a probe. The probe was either an image of an eye (with direct gaze) or of a star. As expected, participants' detection rate for the star was poor, demonstrating the typical attentional blink. Crucially, detection rate for the eye was significantly better. This reduced attentional blink suggests that people's sensitivity to eyes is strong enough to circumvent fundamental limitations in visuotemporal attention.

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