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Browsing by Subject "working memory"

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  • Savisaari, Olli (2016)
    Human perception is seriously limited in relation to the countless stimuli of one’s surroundings. It is guided by attention, which can be directed only at a fraction of all available stimuli at a given moment. The topic of this thesis is a phenomenon illustrating the constrained nature of attention called the attentional blink. One of the goals is to consider the origin and mechanisms behind the phenomenon as well as the current applications of 1) the phenomenon itself and 2) the methods used in attentional blink research. The attentional blink occurs in a rapid succession of stimuli, which unveils the limits of temporal capacity of attention. As a consequence of the blink, some of the target stimuli do not reach conscious processing. The phenomenon has sparked wide interest since the 1980’s, but the mechanisms, operating principle and especially the neural correlates of attentional blink are still under debate, which makes the topic relevant even today. Attentional blink is most commonly studied with the rapid serial visual presentation –method (RSVP). This method, however, can be applied to many more contexts as well, some of which are addressed here. The thesis is a review covering 32 articles and publications of the attentional blink or topics directly related to it. They include only reports of studies done on healthy individuals and reviews of such experiments. Although there is much more literature on the topic besides the ones chosen here, these 32 provide a critical, yet comprehensive review of an attentional limit called the attentional blink. Attentional blink is commonly known as a consistent and universally occurring phenomenon, during which attentional resources are temporarily suppressed. According to most theories it occurs due to choosing specific target items to be processed in working memory, though contradicting evidence exists. Somewhat surprisingly, there are individual differences in the duration and magnitude of the blink, which are affected by the processing speed of working memory and the ability to update its contents. Thus the blink does not appear exactly the same way for everyone. Actual applications of the blink seem to be very few in number, possibly due to limited benefits of application or the specificity of the phenomenon. The RSVP-method used in attentional blink research is more widely applied in modern technology, for example in text presentation. For any application to be useful, it needs to reduce the overload on attentional and working memory systems in order to heighten perception. However, to be able to utilize attentional blink and RSVP maximally, more research is needed.