When two targets (T1 and T2) are inserted in a rapid stream of visual distractors (RSVP), detection/identification accuracy of T2 is impaired at intertarget lags shorter than about 500 msec. This phenomenon, the attentional blink (AB), has been regarded as a hallmark of the inability of the visual system to process multiple items. Yet, paradoxically, the AB is much reduced when T2 is presented directly after T1 (known as lag-1 sparing). Because lag-1 sparing is said to depend on observers' spatial attention being set to process the first target, we predicted that if observers are set to monitor two RSVP streams, they could process more than two items; that is, two instances of lag-1 sparing would be obtained concurrently. The results of three experiments indicated that this was the case. When observers searched for two targets in each of two synchronized RSVP streams, lag-1 sparing occurred concurrently in both streams. These results suggest that the visual system can handle up to four items at one moment under RSVP circumstances.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)