Max, C., Widmann, A., Schröger, E., & Sussman, E. (2015). Effects of explicit knowledge and predictability on auditory distraction and target performance. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 98(2), 174-181.

Effects of explicit knowledge and predictability on auditory distraction and target performance

This study tested effects of task requirements and knowledge on auditory distraction effects. This was done by comparing the response to a pitch change (an irrelevant, distracting tone feature) that occurred predictably in a tone sequence (every 5th tone) under different task conditions. The same regular sound sequence was presented with task conditions varying in what information the participant was given about the predictability of the pitch change, and when this information was relevant for the task to be performed. In all conditions, participants performed a tone duration judgment task. Behavioral and event-related brain potential (ERP) measures were obtained to measure distraction effects and deviance detection. Predictable deviants produced behavioral distraction effects in all conditions. However, the P3a amplitude evoked by the predictable pitch change was largest when participants were uninformed about the regular structure of the sound sequence, showing an effect of knowledge on involuntary orienting of attention. In contrast, the mismatch negativity (MMN) component was only modulated when the regularity was relevant for the task and not by stimulus predictability itself. P3a and behavioral indices of distraction were not fully concordant. Overall, our results show differential effects of knowledge and predictability on auditory distraction effects indexed by neurophysiological (P3a) and behavioral measures.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
Institute of Psychology
Neumarkt 9-19
D-04109 Leipzig


Dagmar Schrödl
Phone: +49 341 97-39570
Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Dorit Thieme
Phone: +49 341 97-39540
Email: d dot thieme at uni-leipzig dot de

Fax: +49 341 97-39271