Visual marking across eye blinks.
Irwin DE., Humphreys GW.
Visual search for a conjunction target can be made efficient by presenting one initial set of distractors as a preview, prior to the onset of the other items in the search display Watson & Humphreys (Psychological Review 104:90-122, 1997). However, this "preview advantage" is lost if the initial items are offset for a brief period before onsetting again with the search display Kunar, Humphreys, & Smith (Psychological Science 14:181-185, 2003). Researchers have long disputed whether the preview advantage reflects a process of internally coding and suppressing the old items or of the onset of the new items capturing attention Donk & Theeuwes (Perception & Psychophysics 63:891-900, 2001). In this study, we assessed whether an internally driven blink (in which participants close their eyes) acts in the same manner as an external blink produced by offsetting and then onsetting the preview. In the novel blink conditions, participants searched feature, conjunction, and preview displays after being cued to blink their eyes. The search displays were presented during the eye blink, and so were immediately available once participants opened their eyes. Having participants make an eye blink generally slowed search but had no effect on the search slopes. In contrast, imposing an externally driven blink disrupted preview search. The data indicated that visual attention can compensate for internally driven blinks, and this does not lead to the loss of the representations of distractors across time. Moreover, efficient preview search occurred when the search items had no abrupt onsets, demonstrating that onsets of new search items are not critical for the preview benefit.