Is deviance distraction immune to the prior sequential learning of stimuli and responses?

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Past studies show that novel, task-irrelevant auditory stimuli, presented in the context of an otherwise repeated standard sound, capture participants’ attention away from a focal task, resulting in behavioral distraction. While evidence has shown that making novel sounds predictable reduces or eliminates distraction, it remains unknown whether predictable target stimuli can also shield participants from novelty distraction. Using a serial reaction time task, we installed the learning of a sequence of target stimuli before testing the impact of novel sounds on performance for this sequence compared with a new one. In the learning phase, participants pressed response buttons corresponding to visual cues appearing in one of four spatial locations arranged horizontally. Unbeknownst to participants, the sequence of locations followed a pattern during several blocks before being replaced by a new pattern. The data provided solid evidence of sequence learning for the repeated sequence. In the auditory distraction phase, auditory distractors were presented immediately before each visual target. Novel sounds lengthened response times compared to the standard sound (novelty distraction), equally for learned and new sequences. We conclude that the anticipation of target stimuli and responses does not shield participants from novelty distraction and that the latter is an obligatory attentional effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-497
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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