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Seven experiments explore the role of bottlenecks in selective attention and access to visual short-term memory in the failure of observers to identify clearly visible changes in otherwise stable visual displays. Experiment One shows that observers fail to register a color change in an object even if they are cued to the location of the object by a transient at that location as the change is occurring. Experiment Two shows the same for orientation change. In Experiments Three and Four, attention is directed to specific objects prior to making changes in those objects. Observers have only a very limited memory for the status of recently attended items. Experiment Five reveals that observers have no ability to detect changes that happen after attention has been directed to an object and before attention returns to that object. In Experiment Six, attention is cued at rates that more closely resemble natural rates and Experiment Seven uses natural images. Memory capacity remains very small (<4 items).

Original publication




Journal article


Vis cogn

Publication Date





749 - 780