The Benefits of Distractors: Search Strategy Can Influence Attentional Allocation

Master's Thesis


Recently, Biggs and Gibson (2010) provided evidence that distractor interference depended upon the context of the task, suggesting top-down effects were responsible for distractor interference. Our present study examined this evidence under varied task demands by randomizing distractor presence. The results indicated better performance in the presence of a singleton distractor with a neutral identity relative to an absent distractor condition. By incorporating the distractor into the search strategy, participants located the target faster with this supposedly distracting information. Top-down strategies were also increased interference as participants were priming distractor processing by trying to ignore the irrelevant singleton. When provided with an efficient means of locating the target, the irrelevant information no longer produced the same benefits. Our findings suggest that top-down mechanisms can increase or decrease interference produced by irrelevant information depending on how this information is incorporated into visual search.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04162010-154219

Author Adam Thomas Biggs
Advisor Brad Gibson
Contributor Brad Gibson, Committee Chair
Contributor James Brockmole, Committee Member
Contributor G.A. Radvansky, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name Master of Arts
Defense Date
  • 2010-03-05

Submission Date 2010-04-16
  • United States of America

  • distractors

  • attentional

  • strategy

  • attention

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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