Hughes, Robert W., Hurlstone, Mark J., Marsh, John E., Vachon, François and Jones, Dylan M.
Cognitive control of auditory distraction: Impact of task difficulty, foreknowledge, and working memory capacity supports duplex-mechanism account.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0029064
The influence of top-down cognitive control on 2 putatively distinct forms of distraction was investigated. Attentional capture by a task-irrelevant auditory deviation (e.g., a female-spoken token following a sequence of male-spoken tokens)—as indexed by its disruption of a visually presented recall task—was abolished when focal-task engagement was promoted either by increasing the difficulty of encoding the visual to-be-remembered stimuli (by reducing their perceptual discriminability; Experiments 1 and 2) or by providing foreknowledge of an imminent deviation (Experiment 2). In contrast, distraction from continuously changing auditory stimuli (“changing-state effect”) was not modulated by task-difficulty or foreknowledge (Experiment 3). We also confirmed that individual differences in working memory capacity—typically associated with maintaining task-engagement in the face of distraction—predict the magnitude of the deviation effect, but not the changing-state effect. This convergence of experimental and psychometric data strongly supports a duplex-mechanism account of auditory distraction: Auditory attentional capture (deviation effect) is open to top-down cognitive control, whereas auditory distraction caused by direct conflict between the sound and focal-task processing (changing-state effect) is relatively immune to such control.
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