Implicit processing during change blindness revealed with mouse-contingent and gaze-contingent displays
People often miss salient events that occur right in front of them. This phenomenon, known as change blindness, reveals the limits of visual awareness. Here, we investigate the role of implicit processing in change blindness using an approach that allows partial dissociation of covert and overt attention. Traditional gazecontingent paradigms adapt the display in real time according to current gaze position. We compare such a paradigm with a newly designed mouse-contingent paradigm where the visual display changes according to the real-time location of a user-controlled mouse cursor, effectively allowing comparison of change detection with mainly overt attention (gaze-contingent display; Experiment 2) and untethered overt and covert attention (mousecontingent display; Experiment 1). We investigate implicit indices of target detection during change blindness in eye movement and behavioral data, and test whether affective devaluation of unnoticed targets may contribute to change blindness. The results show that unnoticed targets are processed implicitly, but that the processing is shallower than if the target is consciously detected. Additionally, the partial untethering of covert attention with the mouse-contingent display changes the pattern of search and leads to faster detection of the changing target. Finally, although it remains possible that the deployment of covert attention is linked to implicit processing, the results fall short of establishing a direct connection.