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Word meanings can be accessed but not reported during the attentional blink


AFTER the detection of a target item in a rapid stream of visual stimuli, there is a period of 400–600 ms during which subsequent targets are missed. This impairment has been labelled the 'attentional blink'1. It has been suggested that, unlike an eye blink, the additional blink does not reflect a suppression of perceptual processing, but instead reflects a loss of information at a postperceptual stage, such as visual short-term memory2–4. Here we provide electrophysiological evidence that words presented during the attentional blink period are analysed to the point of meaning extraction, even though these extracted meanings cannot be reported 1–2 s later. This shows that the attentional blink does indeed reflect a loss of information at a postperceptual stage of processing, and provides a demonstration of the modularity of human brain function.

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Luck, S., Vogel, E. & Shapiro, K. Word meanings can be accessed but not reported during the attentional blink . Nature 383, 616–618 (1996).

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