Reading the words on a page, attending to signs and hazards on the road, and other tasks involve selecting relevant information from a changing stream of sensory stimulation. Dr. Patrick Goodbourn and I have developed an analysis technique to break down temporal selection abilities into their effectiveness, latency, and temporal precision.
Subsequent applications of this technique have provided new insights into the Attentional Blink, the effects of napping, the abilities of people with dyslexia, and the effect of lesions in parietal brain areas. The results in each case indicate that participants select from a stream not by sampling the scene after an attentional cue appears, but rather by holding successive items in a stream in a mental “buffer”, and afterwards binding one of the buffered representations with the cue. Performance on this task is also linked to the types of attentional shifts that occur during reading, and our ongoing work seeks to contribute more directly to the understanding of the role of these attentional shifts in reading.