The attentional blink is related to phonemic decoding, but not sight-word recognition, in typically reading adults

  • Maree M. Tyson-Parry, Jessica Sailah, Mark E. Boyes, Nicholas A. Badcock
  • Vision Research, October 2015, Elsevier
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.visres.2015.08.001

Non-word reading is related to visual temporal attention

What is it about?

The 'attentional blink' is an estimate of the time for a rapidly presented piece of item to reach conscious awareness in a context of interference. On average this takes about 500 milliseconds. A lot of research has suggested a relationship between the attentional blink and reading, especially in dyslexia. In our research we measured non-word reading (e.g., bormil) in a group of typically reading adults and found that it was related to the attentional blink, such that poorer readers took longer to recover from the attentional blink. Rather than being critical for the reading process, we suggest the relationship might be related to a common mechanism of attentional control.

Why is it important?

This paper supports a relationship between reading and the attentional blink in typically reading adults. It is particularly interesting because this relationship does not appear to hold in children or in groups of individuals with reading difficulties (or dyslexia). As part of our interpretation of the literature, we make a number of suggestions for followup research to better understand how the relationship between the attentional blink and reading changes with development.


Dr Nicholas A Badcock
Macquarie University

We recently conducted a meta-analysis of all of the studies examining the attentional blink and dyslexia (Badcock & Kidd, 2015: for free access go to We concluded that, rather than a difference with the attentional blink, groups of people with dyslexia have a general problem with complex cognitive tasks. This contrasts slightly with our work in typical adults which shows a relationship between reading and the attentional blink. Therefore, the relationship between the attentional blink and reading may be vary at different points along the continuum of reading ability. Understanding where this changes may be important for understanding whether temporal attention is critical for dyslexia.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Nicholas A Badcock