Horváth, J., & Bendixen, A. (2012). Preventing distraction by probabilistic cueing. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 83(3), 342-347.

Preventing distraction by probabilistic cueing

Involuntary attention switches triggered by infrequent, unpredictably occurring sensory events (distraction) can be prevented when participants are made aware of the forthcoming distractor. Previous studies exploring this phenomenon presented visual cues before each stimulus in an auditory oddball sequence. In one condition, cues were completely reliable in predicting the forthcoming distractor or standard sound, in another, separate condition, they were completely unreliable. These studies found that in the condition with reliable cues, distraction was reduced compared to that with unreliable cues, as signaled by decreased reaction time delay as well as reduced P3a and reorienting negativity event-related potentials. Whereas these results are generally interpreted as the results of preparatory processes initiated by the cues, it could be argued that the preventive effect is a byproduct of increased information processing load in the condition with informative cues compared to that in the condition with uninformative ones. In the present study, using 80% reliable visual cues preceding tones in an oddball sequence, it was demonstrated that distraction can be prevented when the trials with valid and invalid cues were presented within a single experimental condition, as shown by reduced reaction time delay and P3a amplitude. These results are compatible with the notion that the distraction is prevented by means of preparatory processes initiated by the cues.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
Institute of Psychology
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Dagmar Schrödl
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Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Dorit Thieme
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