Top-down control over involuntary attention switching in the auditory modality

E. Sussman, I. Winkler, E. Schröger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


We tested the effects of predictability on involuntary attention switching to task-irrelevant sound changes (distraction). Behavioral and neurophysiological evidence are provided, showing that the predictability of task-irrelevant sound changes eliminates effects of distraction even though the automatic auditory change detection system remains responsive. Two indices of distraction, slower task performance and cortical brain responses associated with attention switching, were seen only in the unpredictable condition, in which the irrelevant acoustic changes were unexpected. Attention was not involuntarily drawn away from the primary task when the subjects had foreknowledge of when the irrelevant changes would occur. These results demonstrate attentional control over orienting to sound changes and suggest that involuntary attention switching occurs mainly when an irrelevant stimulus change is unexpected. The present data allowed observation of the temporal dynamics of attention switching in the human brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)630-637
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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