attentional blink
n. The momentary lapse in awareness that occurs after a stimulus catches the brain‘s attention.

Example Citations:
Our love of our name even defeats "attentional blink". This is temporary amnesia caused by the fact that human beings are not good at looking out for two things at once. So if you ask the viewer to watch for a "target" number in a row of figures going past on a screen, they'll spot it, but fail to notice what comes afterwards.

The amnesiac effect works with words too -unless you put someone's name after their target word. They'll spot it every time, report Calgary University scientists in the Journal of Experimental Psychology and Human Perceptual Performance.
—John Naish, "Narcissus: the name for us all," The Times (London), January 13, 2007

[Jane Raymond's] move from research in visual processing into consumer psychology began in the early 1990s, when she discovered a quirk in the brain's attentional system. She showed people a stream of letters and numbers on a screen and asked them to look out for a white letter or an X. When she asked her volunteers afterwards what they had seen, she found that if the X appeared up to half a second or so after the white letter, or vice versa, people failed to see it.

She concluded that if something catches your attention, your brain is blind to anything else for a short period afterwards. She called the effect the "attentional blink". ...

So what does this mean for advertisers? A typical television ad consists of a series of grabby images interspersed with the product. But unless the scenes in the ad are cut to take account of attentional blink, the brain is likely to ignore the information the advertiser wants to get across.
—Richard Fisher, "Flogging a dead horse," New Scientist, December 24, 2005

Earliest Citation:
Through rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), we asked Ss to identify a partially specified letter (target) and then to detect the presence or absence of a fully specified letter (probe). Whereas targets are accurately identified, probes are poorly detected when they are presented during a 270-ms interval beginning 180 ms after the target.
—Jane Raymond, K.L. Shapiro, and K.M. Arnell, "Temporary suppression of visual processing in an RSVP task: an attentional blink?," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, August 1, 1992

Related Words: