Distraction by deviant and changing auditory distractors: A test of competing working-memory models

Two main accounts compete for the best explanations for the effects of auditory distraction on working memory. According to the duplex account, the disruption of working memory by changing distractors is due to the preattentive processing of the auditory distractors which automatically interferes with the processing of the target stimuli. The effect of auditory deviants is attributed to the capture of focal attention. The attentional account attributes both phenomena to attentional distraction. On the one hand, the second explanation seems more attractive because it is more parsimonious. On the other hand, empirical findings suggest that the two phenomena can be dissociated, which supports the former account. However, a closer examination of the literature suggests that at least some of the dissociations could be due to methodological confounds. The main aim of the present research project is to provide a larger data base to test the differing predictions of the two competing accounts.

Project Period

2016-2018


The influence of regularity violations and personal relevance of to-be ignored auditory information on serial recall

Serial recall of visually presented events is impaired when irrelevant auditory distractors are presented either during the presentation of the target items or during a short retention interval. Working memory models that attempt to explain this effect fall into two classes—a first class that attributes the irrelevant sound effect to attentional capture and a second class that implies the assumption that attention is not involved in short-term maintenance. The first class of models leads to the prediction that two types of distractors should cause a particularly pronounced interference effect. First, to-be ignored stimuli that violate a regularity in the auditory environment should elicit a strong orienting reaction and should therefore draw attention away from the memory task. Second, stimuli with relevance for the individual should capture attention. In the present research project, we will examine the effect of regulation violations and relevance of to-be ignored auditory information on serial recall of visual sequences. This research will help to specify the role of attention in short-term memory, and will help to evaluate models of human working memory.

Project Period

2012-2014

Investigators

Axel Buchner
Raoul Bell undefined
Jan Röer
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Publications

Röer, J. P., Bell, R., & Buchner, A. (2014). Please silence your cell phone: Your ringtone captures other people's attention. Noise & Health, 16, 34-39.

Röer, J. P., Bell, R., & Buchner, A. (2014). What determines auditory distraction? On the roles of local auditory changes and expectation violations. PLoS ONE, 9, e84166.
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Röer, J. P., Bell, R., & Buchner, A. (2013). Self-relevance increases the irrelevant sound effect: Attentional disruption by one’s own name. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 925-931.
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Memory for cooperators and cheaters: A test of the emotional incongruence hypothesis

Social contract theorie implies the assumption that social exchange is facilitated by a highly specialized cheater detection module. To enable the individual to avoid cheaters in social exchange, this reasoning mechanism has to be complemented by memory mechanisms that help the individual to learn from previous negative experiences with cheaters. More specifically, it has been proposed that people are especially efficient at recognizing the faces of cheaters (Mealey, Daood, & Krage, 1996) or have enhanced source memory for faces of cheaters (Buchner, Bell, Mehl, & Musch, 2009). However, more recent studies suggest that memory for social interaction partners is much more flexible. Three studies (Barclay, 2008; Bell, Buchner & Musch, 2010; Volstorf, Rieskamp & Stevens, 2011) showed that memory for cooperators and cheaters is modulated by the relative frequencies of the interaction partners. People tend to remember the behavior that is rare and therefore unexpected in a given environment. To tests whether memory for information that violates positive or negative expectations is generally enhanced, we elicit positive or negative expectations about the outcomes of social interactions. Behavioral data and electrophysiological correlates are assessed.

Project Period

2012-2014

Investigators

Axel Buchner
Raoul Bell undefined
Jan Röer
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Publications

Bell, R., & Buchner, A. (2012). How adaptive is memory for cheaters? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 403-408. undefineddoi:10.1177/0963721412458525

Bell, R., Giang, T., Mund, I., & Buchner, A. (2013). Memory for reputational trait information: Is social-emotional information processing less flexible in old age? Psychology and Aging, 28, 984-995. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034266

Bell, R., Mieth, L., & Buchner, A. (2015). Appearance-based first impressions and person memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition41, 456-472. undefinedhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000034

Bell, R., Sasse, J., Möller, M., Czernochowski, D., Mayr, S., & Buchner, A. (2016). Event-related potentials in response to cheating and cooperation in a social dilemma game. Psychophysiology, 53, 216–228. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12561

Giang, T., Bell, R., & Buchner, A. (2012). Does facial resemblance enhance cooperation? PLoS ONE, 7, e47809. undefineddoi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047809 pdf

Bell, R., Sasse, J., Möller, M., Czernochowski, D., Mayr, S., & Buchner, A. (2016). Event-related potentials in response to cheating and cooperation in a social dilemma game. Psychophysiology, 53, 216–228. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12561

Mieth, L., Bell, R., & Buchner, A. (2016). Memory and disgust: Effects of appearance-congruent and appearance-incongruent information on source memory for food. Memory, 24, 629-639. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2015.1034139


Habituation of the irrelevant sound effect

Models of human working memory fall into one of two categorie depending on whether they specify a role of attention in the short-term maintenance of verbal information in working memory or not. The irrelevant sound effect can be used to test whether attention is involved in short-term memory. Habituation of the irrelevant sound effect would provide evidence for the class of working memory models that specify a role for attention in short-term memory. Thus, examining whether the irrelevant sound effect habituates is highly relevant for the evaluation of working memory models. Unfortunately, the empirical evidence for or against habituation of the irrelevant sound effect is rather mixed. The present research projects aims at clarifying the role of habituation in the irrelevant sound effect while avoiding the methodological problems of previous studies addressing this issue.

Project Period

2012-2014

Investigators

Axel Buchner
Raoul Bell undefined
Jan Röer
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Publications

Bell, R., Röer, J. P., Dentale, S., & Buchner, A. (2012). Habituation of the irrelevant sound effect: Evidence for an attentional theory of short-term memory disruption. Journal of experimental psychology Learning, memory, and cognition, 38, 1542-57.

Röer, J. P., Bell, R., & Buchner, A. (2014). Evidence for habituation of the irrelevant sound effect on serial recall. Memory & Cognition, 609-621.
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Röer, J. P., Bell, R., Dentale, S., & Buchner, A. (2011). The role of habituation and attentional orienting in the disruption of short-term memory performance. Memory & Cognition, 39, 839-50. pdf

Display legibility and ergonomic display design

Studies from the 80s show significant performance differences between on-screen reading and reading on paper in favour of the latter. Since then, screen technology has advanced considerably. State-of-the-art displays—such as the retina display of the iPad—become more and more similar to paper with respect to their handling as well as their optical properties. The question arises whether differences in reading performance—such as reading speed and reading comprehension—remain when using the latest display technologies.

In addition to comparing legibility between modern electronic displays and paper, this project focusses on specific variables that affect the legibility of state-of-the-art displays, such as the choice of colours and of display polarity. We are usually better in reading dark text on a light background (positive polarity) than we are in reading light text on a dark background (negative polarity). In our studies, we examine the determinants of this “polarity effect”. The results are of ergonomic and theoretical relevance. In addition to measures of performance and of subjective well-being, future studies will also include indicators of gaze behaviour (such as blinking rate, pupil size, and eye movements).

Project Period

ongoing

Investigators

Axel Buchner
Maja Köpper
Susanne Mayr undefined
Cosima Piepenbrock

Publications

Buchner, A., Mayr, S., & Brandt, M. (2009). The advantage of positive text-background polarity is due to high display luminance. Ergonomics, 52, 882–886. doi: 10.1080/00140130802641635

Mayr, S., & Buchner, A. (2010). After-effects of TFT-LCD display polarity and display colour on the detection of low-contrast objects. Ergonomics, 53, 914-925. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2010.484508


Distractor processing and mechanisms of selection in audition

Located at the intersection between attention, memory and action selection research, this project focusses on the processing of irrelevant auditory information and its impact on subsequent task performance. To this end, we rely amongst others on the phenomenon of negative priming, that is the slowed-down responding to a previously ignored object.An established explanation of this intensively studied phenomenon is the episodic retrieval model. According to this account, the repeated presentation of the former distractor stimulus cues retrieval of the previous processing episode. Part of the retrieved episode is a “do not respond” tag attached to the representation of the former distractor stimulus. Responding to a previously ignored stimulus is slowed down due to the conflict between the present task requirement (“respond”) and retrieved information from memory (“do not respond”). In our previous work, we showed that the retrieval of response information from the previous prime episode is a further cause for a negative priming inducing conflict.

Currently, the main focus of our project is on stimulus processing in spatial auditory displays. We are interested in whether and, if so, how location information of ignored sounds is processed and remembered. In addition, we would like to know whether responses to spatially presented distractor sounds are activated and subsequently inhibited to prevent false responding. So far, our findings show that in clear contrast to the visual modality, there seems to be no general impairment in responding to sounds that appear at previously ignored locations. Instead, location and identity information of ignored sounds seems to be integrated into what has been called “ object files” in related areas of research. Subsequent reactions are slowed down if one of these object features —either identity or location information—changes between successive presentations. These findings are consistent with the so-called feature mismatch theory. In our current studies, we transfer the established findings to situations of increased ecological validity. For example, sounds played in three-dimensional space have to be focussed via natural responses such as head movements (instead of responding by pressing buttons). Possibly, response activation and inhibition processes associated with ignored sounds depend on the naturalness of the response.

Project Period

ongoing

Investigators

Axel Buchner
Susanne Mayr undefined
Malte Möller

Publications

Mayr, S., Buchner, A., Möller, M., & Hauke, R. (2011). Spatial and identity negative priming in audition: Evidence of feature binding in auditory spatial memory. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 73, 1710-1732. doi: 10.3758/s13414-011-0138-2

Mayr, S., Möller, M., & Buchner, A. (2011). Evidence of vocal and manual event files in auditory negative priming. Experimental Psychology, 58, 353–360. doi: 10.1027/1618-3169/a000102

Möller, M., Mayr, S., & Buchner, A. (in press). Target localization among concurrent sound sources: No evidence for the inhibition of previous distractor responses. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.

Delivery Address

Institut für Experimentelle Psychologie

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Universitätsstraße 1
Building: 23.03
Floor/Room: 00.68
40225 Düsseldorf
Postal Address

Institut für Experimentelle Psychologie

40204 Düsseldorf
Responsible for the content: E-MailProf. Dr. Axel Buchner