Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Irene V. Blair

Second Advisor

Angela Bryan

Third Advisor

Leaf Van Boven

Fourth Advisor

Sona Dimidjian

Fifth Advisor

Stefanie Mollborn


Inattentional Blindness (IB) refers to the phenomenon that people often fail to notice unexpected, yet obvious, events when they are focused on another task. The consequences of IB can be deadly when it contributes to attentional error in high-risk situations. In this research, four studies investigated strategies for increasing noticing of unexpected events, specifically through enhancing the chronic and situational accessibility of those events. Studies 1 – 3 explored the degree to which priming unexpected events increased the likelihood that they would be noticed. Study 4 employed different types of warning to situationally increase attention to the unexpected. In addition, all four studies manipulated chronic accessibility of the unexpected event and examined the relationship between increased chronic and situational accessibility.

The results of the four studies indicate that events that are more chronically accessible are significantly more likely to be noticed than events that are not chronically accessible. Explicitly warning individuals that something unexpected was to appear also increased the likelihood that it would be noticed, whereas more subtle warnings were ineffective. Finally, the priming techniques used in this research generally did not increase noticing of unexpected events. The implication of these findings are discussed in the context of how they might apply to reducing attentional error in health care settings.