Do "Mudsplashes" Induce Tactile Change Blindness?

By Gallace, Alberto; Tan, Hong Z. et al. | Perception and Psychophysics, May 2007 | Go to article overview

Do "Mudsplashes" Induce Tactile Change Blindness?


Gallace, Alberto, Tan, Hong Z., Spence, Charles, Perception and Psychophysics


The phenomenon of change blindness (the surprising inability of people to correctly perceive changes between consecutively presented displays), primarily reported in vision, has recently been shown to occur for positional changes presented in tactile displays as well. Here, we studied people's ability to detect changes in the number of tactile stimuli in successively presented displays composed of one to three stimuli distributed over the body surface. In Experiment 1, a tactile mask consisting of the simultaneous activation of all seven possible tactile stimulators was sometimes presented between the two to-be-discriminated tactile displays. In Experiment 2, a "mudsplash" paradigm was used, with a brief irrelevant tactile distractor presented at the moment of change of the tactile display. Change blindness was demonstrated in both experiments, thus showing that the failure to detect tactile change is not necessarily related to (1) the physical disruption between consecutive events, (2) the effect of masking covering the location of the change, or (3) the erasure or resetting of the information contained within an internal representation of the tactile display. These results are interpreted in terms of a limitation in the number of spatial locations/events that can be consciously accessed at any one time. This limitation appears to constrain change-detection performance, no matter the sensory modality in which the stimuli are presented.

The phenomenon of change blindness refers to the surprising inability of people to correctly detect visual changes from one scene to the next, both in laboratory settings and under more ecologically valid conditions (e.g., DiVita, Obermayer, Nugent, & Linville, 2004; French, 1953; Hochberg, 1968; Rensink, O'Regan, & Clark, 2000; Simons & Levin, 1997; Simons & Rensink, 2005; Velichkovsky, Dornhoefer, Kopf, Helmert, & Joos, 2002). The phenomenon of change blindness has been interpreted as providing important clues about the mechanisms behind access to consciousness and the representation of visual events (e.g., Cohen, 2002; Gallace & Spence, in press; Kim & Blake, 2005; Noë, Pessoa, & Thompson, 2000; O'Regan, 1992; O'Regan & Noë, 2002; Rensink et al., 2000; VanRullen & Koch, 2003a).

The inability of participants to detect changes has also been reported recently within the auditory modality (where the phenomenon has been labeled change deafness; see, e.g., Chan & Spence, 2006; Eramudugolla, Irvine, McAnally, Martin, & Mattingley, 2005; Vitevitch, 2003), and even within the tactile modality (Gallace, Tan, & Spence, 2006a). In particular, a recent study conducted in our laboratory (Gallace et al., 2006a) demonstrated that participants frequently fail to detect the presence of positional changes between simple consecutive tactile patterns (composed of two or three vibrotactile stimuli) presented across their body surface. That is, when the position of a stimulus that is part of a tactile pattern changes (thus giving rise to a new pattern) during the presentation of a tactile mask or after a 110-msec blank interval (i.e., in a tactile analogue of the visual flicker paradigm; see Rensink, O'Regan, & Clark, 1997), a significant percentage (up to 30%) of changes go unnoticed. This result is particularly surprising given the limited number of stimuli (never exceeding three) presented in the displays, and the extended time period in which participants could make their response (up to 10 sec).

Many studies have demonstrated that the human visual system is particularly sensitive to the addition of new objects to visual scenes (e.g., Gellatly & Cole, 2000; Jonides, 1981). This might be related to the capacity of the new object to capture visual attention or to the ability of its neural representation to access consciousness (see Lamme, 2003) and/or to elicit an orientation response toward its spatial position. Indeed, Cole, Kentridge, Gellatly, and Heywood (2003) recently reported that the addition of events was detected more frequently (than the removal of objects) during change (though see Mondy & Coltheart, 2000). …

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Do "Mudsplashes" Induce Tactile Change Blindness?
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