The role of sensory modality in deviance distraction


Congratulations to Alicia for the acceptation for publication of the second study from her PhD in the journal Experimental Psychology!

The study presents four experiments in which young adults performed a digit categorization task while ignoring irrelevant stimuli. The sensory modality of the irrelevant and target stimuli (auditory/visual) was manipulated orthogonally and within-participants. The results overall suggest that auditory irrelevant deviants yield a strong distraction effect while visual deviants only do so to a limited extent and under specific conditions (e.g., when participants are forced to attend to the irrelevant stimuli).


Leiva, A., Parmentier, F. B. R., & Andrés, P. (in press). Comparing the effects of auditory and visual deviant stimuli on auditory and visual target processing Experimental Psychology. Experimental Psychology.


We report the results of oddball experiments in which an irrelevant stimulus (standard, deviant) was presented before a target stimulus and the modality of these stimuli was manipulated orthogonally (visual/auditory). Experiment 1 showed that auditory deviants yielded distraction irrespective of the target’s modality while visual deviants did not impact on performance. When participants were forced to attend the distractors in order to detect a rare target (“target-distractor”), auditory deviants yielded distraction irrespective of the target’s modality and visual deviants yielded a small distraction effect when targets were auditory (Experiments 2 & 3). Visual deviants only produced distraction for visual targets when deviant stimuli were not visually distinct from the other distractors (Experiment 4). Our results indicate that while auditory deviants yield distraction irrespective of the targets’ modality, visual deviants only do so when attended and under selective conditions, at least when irrelevant and target stimuli are temporally and perceptually decoupled.