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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

Examples of the model traces for the HFHF-condition (a) and the HFLF-condition (b).The second target was presented at lag 2.
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pone-0073415-g004: Examples of the model traces for the HFHF-condition (a) and the HFLF-condition (b).The second target was presented at lag 2.

Mentions: The crucial aspect of the model that can explain why the AB is relatively smaller in the cases where the T2 is of low frequency is that retrieving that word sometimes extends beyond the consolidation of T1, surpassing the strategic protection of consolidation. This is illustrated in Figure 4, where the activity of the four modules (along with a row representing the input) is displayed. Figure 4a illustrates a HF-HF trial in which there is an AB. After the word piano has been detected, the “Protect Consolidation” step in the procedural module temporarily prohibits targets from being consolidated, resulting in an AB. In the HF-LF example in Figure 4b, on the other hand, retrieval of the word hoist extends beyond the consolidation of T1, and therefore does not result in an AB. Because at Lag 1, no intervening distractor triggers the protection of T1 consolidation, the effect is absent for lag 1. The results of the model are shown in Figure 5, and fit the overall patterns in the data quite well.


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)

Examples of the model traces for the HFHF-condition (a) and the HFLF-condition (b).The second target was presented at lag 2.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0073415-g004: Examples of the model traces for the HFHF-condition (a) and the HFLF-condition (b).The second target was presented at lag 2.
Mentions: The crucial aspect of the model that can explain why the AB is relatively smaller in the cases where the T2 is of low frequency is that retrieving that word sometimes extends beyond the consolidation of T1, surpassing the strategic protection of consolidation. This is illustrated in Figure 4, where the activity of the four modules (along with a row representing the input) is displayed. Figure 4a illustrates a HF-HF trial in which there is an AB. After the word piano has been detected, the “Protect Consolidation” step in the procedural module temporarily prohibits targets from being consolidated, resulting in an AB. In the HF-LF example in Figure 4b, on the other hand, retrieval of the word hoist extends beyond the consolidation of T1, and therefore does not result in an AB. Because at Lag 1, no intervening distractor triggers the protection of T1 consolidation, the effect is absent for lag 1. The results of the model are shown in Figure 5, and fit the overall patterns in the data quite well.

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