Inattentional blindness on the full-attention trial: Are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

Rebekah C. White, Martin Davies, Anne M. Aimola Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


When attention is otherwise engaged, observers may experience inattentional blindness, failing to notice objects or events that are presented in plain sight. In an inattentional blindness experiment, an unexpected stimulus is presented alongside primary-task stimuli, and its detection is probed. We evaluate a criterion that is commonly used to exclude observers from the data analysis. On the final experimental trial, observers do not perform the primary task, but instead look for anything new. Observers who fail to report the unexpected stimulus on this full-attention trial are excluded. On the basis of 4 hypothetical experiments and a review of 128 actual experiments from the literature, we demonstrate some potentially problematic consequences of implementing the full-attention-trial exclusion criterion. Excluded observers may cluster in experimental conditions and the exclusion criterion may lead researchers to understate the pervasiveness of inattentional blindness. It may even render us blind to inattentional blindness on the full-attention trial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-77
Number of pages14
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional set
  • Data screening
  • Exclusion criterion
  • Forced-choice display
  • Full-attention trial
  • Inattentional blindness

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