Inattentional blindness refers to the failure to see an unexpected object that one may be looking at directly when one's attention is elsewhere. We studied whether a stimulus whose meaning is relevant to the attentional goals of the observer will capture attention and escape inattentional blindness. The results showed that an unexpected stimulus belonging to the attended semantic category but not sharing physical features with the attended stimuli was detected more often than a semantically unrelated stimulus. This effect was larger when the unexpected stimuli were words than when they were pictures. The results imply that the semantic relation between the observer's attentional set and the unexpected stimulus plays a crucial role in inattentional blindness: An unexpected stimulus semantically related to the observer's current interests is likely to be seen, whereas unrelated unexpected stimuli are unseen. Attentional selection may thus be driven by purely semantic features: Meaning may determine whether or not one sees a stimulus.
Friday, October 05, 2007
How Meaning Shapes Seeing
This is the title of an interesting article by Koivisto and Revonsuo in Psychological Science. They show that semantic meaning influences inattentional blindness. Here is their abstract: