When two sequential targets (T1 and T2) are presented within about 600 msec, perception of the second target is impaired. This attentional blink (AB) has been studied by means of two paradigms: rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), in which targets are embedded in a stream of central abstractors, and the two-target paradigm, in which targets are presented eccentrically without abstractors. We examined the role of distractors in the AB, using a modified two-target paradigm with a central stream of task-irrelevant distractors. In six experiments, the RSVP stream of distractors substantially impaired identification of both T1 and T2, but only when the distractors shared common characteristics with the targets. Without such commonalities, the distractors had no effect on performance. This points to the subjects' attentional control setting as an important factor in the AB deficit and suggests a conceptual link between the AB and a form of nonspatial contingent capture attributable to distractor processing.