Out of sight, out of mind

The attentional blink can eliminate synaesthetic colours

Anina N. Rich*, Jason B. Mattingley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Mechanisms of selective attention exert a powerful influence on visual perception. We examined whether attentional selection is necessary for generation of the vivid colours experienced by individuals with grapheme-colour synaesthesia. Twelve synaesthetes and matched controls viewed rapid serial displays of nonsense characters within which were embedded an oriented grating (T1) and a letter-prime (T2), forming a modified attentional blink (AB) task. At the end of the stream a coloured probe appeared that was either congruent or incongruent with the synaesthetic colour elicited by the letter-prime. When the prime was attended, synaesthetes showed a reliable effect of prime-probe congruency. In contrast, when the prime appeared at 350 ms following T1 (during the AB), the congruency effect was eliminated. Our findings suggest that focused attention is crucial for inducing letters to elicit colours in synaesthesia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-328
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010

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