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Word frequency and the attentional blink: the effects of target difficulty on retrieval and consolidation processes.

Wierda SM, Taatgen NA, van Rijn H, Martens S - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: The opposite effect was found for T2.Our results were replicated in a subsequent ERP study.However, it was successfully accounted for by the threaded-cognition model, thus providing an explanation in terms of attentional control.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Neuroimaging Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands ; Department of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT

Background: When a second target (T2) is presented in close succession of a first target (T1) within a stream of non-targets, people often fail to detect T2-a deficit known as the attentional blink (AB). Two types of theories can be distinguished that have tried to account for this phenomenon. Whereas attentional-control theories suggest that protection of consolidation processes induces the AB, limited-resource theories claim that the AB is caused by a lack of resources. According to the latter type of theories, increasing difficulty of one or both targets should increase the magnitude of the AB. Similarly, attentional-control theories predict that a difficult T1 increases the AB due to prolonged processing. However, the prediction for T2 is not as straightforward. Prolonged processing of T2 could cause conflicts and increase the AB. However, if consolidation of T2 is postponed without loss of identity, the AB might be attenuated.

Methodology/principal findings: Participants performed an AB task that consisted of a stream of distractor non-words and two target words. Difficulty of T1 and T2 was manipulated by varying word-frequency. Overall performance for high-frequency words was better than for low-frequency words. When T1 was highly frequent, the AB was reduced. The opposite effect was found for T2. When T2 was highly frequent, performance during the AB period was relatively worse than for a low-frequency T2. A threaded-cognition model of the AB was presented that simulated the observed pattern of behavior by taking changes in the time-course of retrieval and consolidation processes into account. Our results were replicated in a subsequent ERP study.

Conclusions/significance: The finding that a difficult low-frequency T2 reduces the magnitude of the AB is at odds with limited-resource accounts of the AB. However, it was successfully accounted for by the threaded-cognition model, thus providing an explanation in terms of attentional control.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

An overview of the modules and their role in the TC AB model.
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pone-0073415-g003: An overview of the modules and their role in the TC AB model.

Mentions: In order to explain the patterns in the data, in particular the finding that a high-frequency T2 leads to a larger rather than smaller AB, we modified the threaded cognition (TC) model of the AB by Taatgen et al [8], to fit the current task. The TC model, which is based on the ACT-R cognitive architecture [39] assumes that several cognitive modules are involved in the AB task. More in particular, a visual module is needed to perceive the input, a declarative memory module is necessary to assess the category of an input (e.g., target versus distractor), and an imaginal module is used to consolidate targets (comparable to working memory). Finally, procedural memory coordinates the flow of information (Figure 3). The TC assumption is that all modules can operate in parallel, but that a single module can only do one thing at a time. In the TC model, the AB is explained by a (procedural) control strategy that blocks the scanning for targets during memory consolidation. This control strategy is employed when a distractor is encountered. This explanation has similarities with those offered by some other models, in particular the Boost and Bounce model [7] and the eSTST model [9]. Specific about the TC model is that this control strategy has to compete with other processes, which enables it to explain why the AB is reduced in cases where there is distraction or a secondary task [8], [30], [40].


Word frequency and the attentional blink: the effects of target difficulty on retrieval and consolidation processes.

Wierda SM, Taatgen NA, van Rijn H, Martens S - PLoS ONE (2013)

An overview of the modules and their role in the TC AB model.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3760916&req=5

pone-0073415-g003: An overview of the modules and their role in the TC AB model.
Mentions: In order to explain the patterns in the data, in particular the finding that a high-frequency T2 leads to a larger rather than smaller AB, we modified the threaded cognition (TC) model of the AB by Taatgen et al [8], to fit the current task. The TC model, which is based on the ACT-R cognitive architecture [39] assumes that several cognitive modules are involved in the AB task. More in particular, a visual module is needed to perceive the input, a declarative memory module is necessary to assess the category of an input (e.g., target versus distractor), and an imaginal module is used to consolidate targets (comparable to working memory). Finally, procedural memory coordinates the flow of information (Figure 3). The TC assumption is that all modules can operate in parallel, but that a single module can only do one thing at a time. In the TC model, the AB is explained by a (procedural) control strategy that blocks the scanning for targets during memory consolidation. This control strategy is employed when a distractor is encountered. This explanation has similarities with those offered by some other models, in particular the Boost and Bounce model [7] and the eSTST model [9]. Specific about the TC model is that this control strategy has to compete with other processes, which enables it to explain why the AB is reduced in cases where there is distraction or a secondary task [8], [30], [40].

Bottom Line: The opposite effect was found for T2.Our results were replicated in a subsequent ERP study.However, it was successfully accounted for by the threaded-cognition model, thus providing an explanation in terms of attentional control.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Neuroimaging Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands ; Department of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT

Background: When a second target (T2) is presented in close succession of a first target (T1) within a stream of non-targets, people often fail to detect T2-a deficit known as the attentional blink (AB). Two types of theories can be distinguished that have tried to account for this phenomenon. Whereas attentional-control theories suggest that protection of consolidation processes induces the AB, limited-resource theories claim that the AB is caused by a lack of resources. According to the latter type of theories, increasing difficulty of one or both targets should increase the magnitude of the AB. Similarly, attentional-control theories predict that a difficult T1 increases the AB due to prolonged processing. However, the prediction for T2 is not as straightforward. Prolonged processing of T2 could cause conflicts and increase the AB. However, if consolidation of T2 is postponed without loss of identity, the AB might be attenuated.

Methodology/principal findings: Participants performed an AB task that consisted of a stream of distractor non-words and two target words. Difficulty of T1 and T2 was manipulated by varying word-frequency. Overall performance for high-frequency words was better than for low-frequency words. When T1 was highly frequent, the AB was reduced. The opposite effect was found for T2. When T2 was highly frequent, performance during the AB period was relatively worse than for a low-frequency T2. A threaded-cognition model of the AB was presented that simulated the observed pattern of behavior by taking changes in the time-course of retrieval and consolidation processes into account. Our results were replicated in a subsequent ERP study.

Conclusions/significance: The finding that a difficult low-frequency T2 reduces the magnitude of the AB is at odds with limited-resource accounts of the AB. However, it was successfully accounted for by the threaded-cognition model, thus providing an explanation in terms of attentional control.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus