The role of age, working memory, and response inhibition in deviance distraction: A cross-sectional study

A. Leiva, P. Andrés, M. Servera, F. Verbruggen, Fabrice Parmentier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 American Psychological Association.Sounds deviating from an otherwise repeated or structured sequence capture attention and affect performance in an ongoing visual task negatively, testament to the balance between selective attention and change detection. Although deviance distraction has been the object of much research, its modulation across the life span has been more scarcely addressed. Recent findings suggest possible connections with working memory and response inhibition. In this study we measured the performance of children and young and older adults in a cross-modal oddball task (deviance distraction), a working memory task (working memory capacity), and a response inhibition task (ability to voluntarily inhibit an already planned action) with the aim to establish the contribution of the latter 2 to the first. Older adults exhibited significantly more deviance distraction than children and young adults (who did not differ from each other). Working memory capacity mediated deviance distraction in children and older adults (though in opposite directions) but not in young adults. Response inhibition capacities did not mediate deviance distraction in any of the age groups. Altogether the results suggest that although the increase in deviance distraction observed in old age may partly reflect the relative impairment of working memory mechanisms, there is no straightforward and stable relation between working memory capacity and deviance distraction across the life span. Furthermore, our results indicate that deviance distraction is unlikely to reflect the temporary inhibition of responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1393
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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