Selective Attention Effects on the Reflex Blink


  • The research was supported by The William T. Grant Foundation, by National Science Foundation grants BNS-7517075 and BNS-787416, by a post-doctoral fellowship award MH07198 to L.D.S., by a Research Scientist award K3-MH21762 to F.K.G. and by travel awards to G.B. from The Social Science Faculty, University of Bergen. Norway and the Wallenberg Foundation, University of Uppsala, Sweden.


Past work has shown that facilitation of reflex blinking accompanies cardiac deceleration when the attention of subjects is directed to a reflex-eliciting stimulus. The present studies showed that when warning stimuli directed attention instead to weak (tactile) stimuli presented simultaneously with reflex-eliciting (acoustic) stimuli, cardiac deceleration was still present but reflex magnitude was unchanged or inhibited. However, latency to reflex onset remained facilitated, i.e., latency and magnitude changes were discordant. The findings were interpreted as evidence for two independent processes: a process capable of selectively enhancing or attenuating sensory input and a non-selective process presumably facilitating motor pathways.