The Time Course of Competition for Attention: Attention Is Initially Labile

Mary C. Potter, Adrian Staub, Daniel H. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


Competition for attention between 2 written words was investigated by presenting the words briefly in a single stream of distractors (Experiment 1) or in different streams (Experiment 2-6), using rapid serial visual presentation at 53 ms/item. Stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) was varied from 0 to 213 ms. At all SOAs there was strong competition, but which word was more likely to be reported shifted markedly with SOA. At SOAs in the range of 13-53 ms the second word was more likely to be reported, but at 213 ms. the advantage switched to the first word, as in the attentional blink. A 2-stage competition model of attention is proposed in which attention to a detected target is labile in Stage 1. Stage 1 ends when one target is identified, initiating a serial Stage 2 process of consolidation of that target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1149-1162
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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