The Effect of Load on the Detection of an Unexpected Stimulus in a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation Task.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
A rapid serial visual presentation task (RSVP) was combined with the 'inattention' paradigm (Mack & Rock, 1998) to investigate the effect of cognitive load on the detection of an unexpected stimulus. In addition, the detection of an unexpected stimulus presented in conjunction with a distractor item, rather than target, was also investigated. Seventy four students of the University of Canterbury participated in one of five experiments. Participants either performed a high cognitive load version of the RSVP task, selecting items on the basis of colour and semantic category, or a low cognitive load version selecting items on the basis of colour only. On the final frame of the fourth and critical trial, an unexpected stimulus appeared in conjunction with either a target or distractor item. The level of inattentional blindness to the unexpected stimulus was the result of interest. No effect of cognitive load or presentation partner was found. The implications of the results for the load theory of attention and cognitive control are discussed, along with the potential future uses of the developed method.