The Influence of Attention Set, Working Memory Capacity, and Expectations on Inattentional Blindness

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Research units


The probability of inattentional blindness, the failure to notice an unexpected object when attention is engaged on some primary task, is influenced by contextual factors like task demands, features of the unexpected object, and the observer's attention set. However, predicting who will notice an unexpected object and who will remain inattentionally blind has proven difficult, and the evidence that individual differences in cognition affect noticing remains ambiguous. We hypothesized that greater working memory capacity might modulate the effect of attention sets on noticing because working memory is associated with the ability to focus attention selectively. People with greater working memory capacity might be better able to attend selectively to target items, thereby increasing the chances of noticing unexpected objects that were similar to the attended items while decreasing the odds of noticing unexpected objects that differed from the attended items. Our study (N = 120 participants) replicated evidence that task-induced attention sets modulate noticing but found no link between noticing and working memory capacity. Our results are largely consistent with the idea that individual differences in working memory capacity do not predict noticing of unexpected objects in an inattentional blindness task.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)386-399
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 03.11.2015

ID: 1327116

View graph of relations