Wetzel, N., & Schröger, E. (2007). Cognitive control of involuntary attention and distraction in children and adolescents. Brain Research, 1155, 134-146.

Cognitive control of involuntary attention and distraction in children and adolescents

The present study focused on the control of involuntary attentional orienting and distraction in children (6-8, 10-12 years) and adolescents (17-18 years). In an auditory distraction paradigm, pitch deviants interspersed in a sequence of standard sounds were presented. In the predictable condition, the type of sound (standard or deviant) was announced by a preceding visual cue. In the unpredictable condition, the cue was not informative with respect to the type of sound. Subjects performed a sound duration discrimination task and were instructed to attend the cues in order to avoid distraction. In the unpredictable condition, regular behavioral and ERP effects of change detection (Mismatch Negativity), attentional orienting (P3a) and distraction (prolonged reaction times) were observed. In the predictable condition, no modulation of Mismatch Negativity amplitude was observed, whereas the amplitude of P3a and reaction time prolongations in deviant trials were reduced in all age groups. Results suggest that even young children are able to voluntarily control involuntary attentional orienting and behavioral distraction. However, significant age effects were observed for the level of behavioral distraction and the selective utilization of the visual cues (reflected by P3b).


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