The attentional blink reveals serial working memory encoding: evidence from virtual and human event-related potentials

Patrick Craston, Brad Wyble, Srivas Chennu, Howard Bowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Observers often miss a second target (T2) if it follows an identified first target item (T1) within half a second in rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), a finding termed the attentional blink. If two targets are presented in immediate succession, however, accuracy is excellent (Lag 1 sparing). The resource sharing hypothesis proposes a dynamic distribution of resources over a time span of up to 600 msec during the attentional blink. In contrast, the ST(2) model argues that working memory encoding is serial during the attentional blink and that, due to joint consolidation, Lag 1 is the only case where resources are shared. Experiment 1 investigates the P3 ERP component evoked by targets in RSVP. The results suggest that, in this context, P3 amplitude is an indication of bottom-up strength rather than a measure of cognitive resource allocation. Experiment 2, employing a two-target paradigm, suggests that T1 consolidation is not affected by the presentation of T2 during the attentional blink. However, if targets are presented in immediate succession (Lag 1 sparing), they are jointly encoded into working memory. We use the ST(2) model's neural network implementation, which replicates a range of behavioral results related to the attentional blink, to generate "virtual ERPs" by summing across activation traces. We compare virtual to human ERPs and show how the results suggest a serial nature of working memory encoding as implied by the ST(2) model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-66
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Attentional Blink
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Models, Biological
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Serial Learning
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Young Adult


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