The Benefit of Foreknowledge in Auditory Distraction Depends on the Intelligibility of pre-exposed Speech

Kattner, Florian, Richardson, Beth Helen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8738-9925 and Marsh, John Everett orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9494-1287 (2022) The Benefit of Foreknowledge in Auditory Distraction Depends on the Intelligibility of pre-exposed Speech. Auditory Perception and Cognition .

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Providing participants with an opportunity to listen to a forthcoming distracter sentence has been shown to attenuate its disruptive effect on short-term memory. On the stimulus-specific attentional diversion account, foreknowledge selectively reduces any potential diversion produced by interest in the post- categorical (e.g., semantic or syntactical) properties of a discrete sentence. This account assumes that the beneficial effect of fore- knowledge depends crucially on the intelligibility of pre-exposed sentential speech. During a visual-verbal serial recall paradigm, participants undertook two counterbalanced blocks of trials wherein they were either pre-exposed to impending auditory dis- tracter sentences (foreknowledge) or not (no foreknowledge). Pre- exposed sentences were intelligible, partially intelligible or unin- telligible while sentences accompanying serial recall were all intel- ligible. Participants were instructed to attend to the sentences during pre-exposure and ignore them when they accompanied the serial recall task. Foreknowledge of an impending distracter sentence attenuated its later distractive power in serial recall, but only when the foreknowledge was at least partially intelligible. Consistent with the stimulus-specific attentional diversion account, the intelligibility of speech presented during a foreknowledge per- iod is a key requirement for attenuation of auditory distraction by sentential speech. This suggests that intelligible foreknowledge increases familiarity of the material thereby reducing attentional diversion due to interest. These results reinforce the view that foreknowledge reduces disruption produced by the semantic/syn- tactical properties of discrete sentences but has little effect on that produced by its acoustic properties.

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