Sussman, E., Winkler, I., & Schröger, E. (2003). Top-down control over involuntary attention switching in the auditory modality. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 10(3), 630-637.

Top-down control over involuntary attention switching in the auditory modality

We tested the effects of predictability on involuntary attention switching to task-irrelevant sound changes (distraction). Behavioral and neurophysiological evidence are provided, showing that the predictability of task-irrelevant sound changes eliminates effects of distraction even though the automatic auditory change detection system remains responsive. Two indices of distraction, slower task performance and cortical brain responses associated with attention switching, were seen only in the unpredictable condition, in which the irrelevant acoustic changes were unexpected. Attention was not involuntarily drawn away from the primary task when the subjects had foreknowledge of when the irrelevant changes would occur. These results demonstrate attentional control over orienting to sound changes and suggest that involuntary attention switching occurs mainly when an irrelevant stimulus change is unexpected. The present data allowed observation of the temporal dynamics of attention switching in the human brain.


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