The effects of attention were assessed on novelty P3 amplitude and scalp distribution elicited by environmental sounds in young and elderly volunteers who participated in either actively attended or ignored oddball conditions. For the young, novelty P3 amplitude decreased with time on task during both attend and ignore sequences. Amplitude decrements were greatest at frontal sites during the attend condition, but at all sites during the ignore condition. A reliable amplitude decrement was not observed for the elderly in either the attend or ignore oddball series. The data suggest that attention differentially activates multiple generators that contribute to scalp-recorded novelty P3 activity. The lack of novelty P3 habituation seen in the elderly is consistent with changes in frontal lobe function as age increases.