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Working paper

The perceptual load effect on target detection in banner blindness

Perceptual load theory claims that the processing of task-irrelevant information can be predicted by the level of perceptual load. If a particular task places a high demand on attention, taskirrelevant stimuli processing can be prevented. That means that in a high-load condition the subjects are more likely to ignore distractors, while in a low-load condition, task-relevant information and task-irrelevant information are processed simultaneously. Although several studies showed that perceptual load can play a crucial role in inattentional blindness, there is a lack of applied research conducted using real-life tasks. This study implemented a real-life task to describe the effect perceptual load has on banner blindness, which has common grounds with inattentional blindness. Banner blindness is a phenomenon in usability studies which shows that subjects do not notice webpage banners despite their saliency. The study represents an important application of load theory to the realworld behavior of internet users. Participants were divided into low-load and high-load groups (which differed in number of stimuli presented) and asked to find items on a shopping website. In the critical trial, a banner appeared. The subjects under the high-load condition were expected to notice the banner less often, than under the low-load condition. The hypothesis was not supported. However, a tendency towards more reports about the banner’s presence can be seen in the low-load group. We assume that if there are enough people who noticed the banner, we will be able to detect the effect of cognitive load on banner blindness