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Andrew B. Leber, Jennifer R. Lechak, Sarah M. Tower-Richardi; Hitting the brakes: Is attention capture reduced with slower responding?. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):128. doi: 10.1167/10.7.128.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
How do people resist distraction by salient, irrelevant stimuli? By one account, resistance to distraction carries a concomitant slowing in overall RT, suggesting that observers delay visual processing to avoid distraction. By a competing account, distraction is best avoided during periods of high arousal, when overall RT is fastest. These accounts have been tested via analysis of cumulative RT distributions, in which distraction is measured as a function of overall RT. Unfortunately, the results of such analyses have lacked consensus. Here, we offer a resolution of the conflicting results by first highlighting a critical weakness of the cumulative RT analysis and then correcting for it. Specifically, while RT on a given trial should reflect the observer's control state, incidental stimulus aspects can also influence RT. For instance, if the distractor appears in the same location on consecutive trials, RT will be faster while interference will be smaller (Kumada & Humpreys, 2001). Effects like this distort the RT distributions in a way that is unrelated to the observer's internal control state. To address such confounds, we performed multiple regression to partial out RT variance attributable to an exhaustive array of incidental stimulus aspects, thus generating “corrected” RT distributions. We then carried out the cumulative RT analysis on both the uncorrected and corrected RT distributions. For the uncorrected data, distraction was smallest at the fastest RTs and gradually increased as RT slowed. However, the corrected data revealed a dramatic reversal, in which distraction was greatest at the fastest RTs. These results offer a parsimonious resolution to the debate on how distraction is avoided. In particular, the results support the “slowing” account and argue against the “high arousal” account.
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