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Visual distraction: a behavioral and event-related brain potential study in humans

Berti, Stefana; Schröger, Erichb


Recent studies reported that the detection of changes in the visual stimulation results in distraction of cognitive processing. From event-related brain potentials it was argued that distraction is triggered by the automatic detection of deviants. We tested whether distraction effects are confined to the detection of a deviation or can be triggered by changes per se, namely by rare stimuli that were not deviant with respect to the stimulation. The results obtained comparable early event-related brain potential effects for rare and deviant stimuli, suggesting an automatic detection of these changes. In contrast, behavioral distraction and attention-related event-related brain potential components were confined to deviant stimuli. This finding suggests that deviancy from a given standard adds a genuine contribution to distraction.

aPsychological Institute, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz

bInstitute for Psychology I, University Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

Correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr Stefan Berti, Psychologisches Institut, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Staudinger Weg 9, D-55099 Mainz, Germany

Tel: +49 6131 39 22889; fax: +49 6131 39 22480; e-mail:

Sponsorship: This study was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Received 7 October 2005; revised 14 November 2005; accepted 14 November 2005

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.