Context effects on auditory distraction

Sufen Chen, Elyse S. Sussman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that sound context modulates the magnitude of auditory distraction, indexed by behavioral and electrophysiological measures. Participants were asked to identify tone duration, while irrelevant changes occurred in tone frequency, tone intensity, and harmonic structure. Frequency deviants were randomly intermixed with standards (Uni-Condition), with intensity deviants (Bi-Condition), and with both intensity and complex deviants (Tri-Condition). Only in the Tri-Condition did the auditory distraction effect reflect the magnitude difference among the frequency and intensity deviants. The mixture of the different types of deviants in the Tri-Condition modulated the perceived level of distraction, demonstrating that the sound context can modulate the effect of deviance level on processing irrelevant acoustic changes in the environment. These findings thus indicate that perceptual contrast plays a role in change detection processes that leads to auditory distraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-309
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Attention
  • Auditory distraction
  • Deviance level
  • Magnitude effect
  • Mismatch negativity (MMN)
  • P3a

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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