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A rapid serial visual presentation task (RSVP) was combined with the 'inattention' paradigm (Mack & Rock, 1998) to investigate the effect of cognitive load on the detection of an unexpected stimulus. In addition, the detection of an unexpected stimulus presented in conjunction with a distractor item, rather than target, was also investigated. Seventy four students of the University of Canterbury participated in one of five experiments. Participants either performed a high cognitive load versiondoi:10.26021/8854 fatcat:5sxramfixzcklm6nwiatzwkhb4