Schröger, E., & Wolff, C. (1998). Behavioral and electrophysiological effects of task-irrelevant sound change: a new distraction paradigm. Brain Research. Cognitive Brain Research, 7(1), 71-87.

Behavioral and electrophysiological effects of task-irrelevant sound change: a new distraction paradigm

A distraction paradigm was utilized that is suited to yield reliable auditory distraction on an individual level even with rather small frequency deviances (7%). Distraction to these tiny deviants was achieved by embedding task-relevant aspects and task-irrelevant, distracting aspects of stimulation into the same perceptual object. Event-related potential (ERP) and behavioral effects of this newly developed paradigm were determined. Subjects received tones that could be of short or long duration equiprobably. They were instructed to press a response button to long-duration tones (targets). In oddball blocks, tones could be of standard frequency or of low-probability (p=0.1), deviant frequency. The task-irrelevant frequency deviants elicited MMN, N2b, and P3a components, and caused impoverished behavioral performance to targets. The usage of tiny distractors permits an interpretation of auditory distraction in terms of attention switching due to a particular memory-related change-detection process. On the basis of the results from an additional condition in which tones were of 10 different frequencies (involving those frequencies which served as standard and deviant in oddball blocks), it is argued that one important prerequisite for linking the neural mechanisms reflected in change-related brain waves to behavioral distraction effects may be regarded as fulfilled. The robustness of the distraction effects to tiny deviations was confirmed in two control experiments.


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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