Perceptual episodes, temporal attention, and the role of cognitive control: Lessons from the attentional blink

Guy Snir, Yaffa Yeshurun

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The ability to identify a target is usually hindered if it appears shortly after another target. This simple and somewhat intuitive observation is qualified by a multitude of unexpected findings and conflicting theories that originate from the attentional blink paradigm. In this review, the major results, implications, and outstanding questions that stem from the paradigm are presented and discussed. The extant literature suggests that when the temporal domain is densely stacked with numerous stimuli, the entities that underlie attentional selection and cognitive control are brief perceptual episodes. Specifically, attention is deployed over an interval that frequently encompasses several stimuli. Most theories agree that the length and boundaries of this interval are influenced by cognitive control mechanisms. However, there is little agreement as to the extent and nature of this influence. Some theories suggest that control is needed in order to initiate a temporally limited attentional response. Other theories argue that cognitive control is actively suppressing attentional mechanisms in order to terminate the perceptual episode. Another formulation suggests that both ends of the interval are partially controlled and that the exertion of control corresponds to the focusing of attention on a narrow interval. The contents of perceptual episodes, as well as their deficiencies, can shed light on the features that guide attentional deployment, the goals that guide cognitive control, and the interactions between these mechanisms. Electrophysiological recordings are extremely useful when one tries to pinpoint the timing of attentional selection. Other neural indicators can elucidate the factors that define perceptual episodes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProgress in Brain Research
EditorsChristina J. Howard
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780128134504
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameProgress in Brain Research
ISSN (Print)0079-6123
ISSN (Electronic)1875-7855

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Attentional blink
  • Attentional set
  • Proactive control
  • Reactive control
  • Temporal episode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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