Behavioral and event-related potential distraction effects with regularly occurring auditory deviants


  • We thank Darragh O'Neill and Lutz Munka for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. This study was supported by a grant of the Johannes Gutenberg-University to S. Jankowiak and a grant of the German Research Foundation to S. Berti (DFG BE 2678/1-1).

Address reprint requests to: S. Jankowiak, Psychologisches Institut, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Staudingerweg 9, D-55099 Mainz, Germany. E-mail:


When auditory stimulation contains infrequent task-irrelevant changes (deviants), behavioral responses to task-relevant aspects of the stimulation are prolonged. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) show that deviants elicit mismatch negativity (MMN), P3a, and reorienting negativity (RON). Here, we examine whether distraction effects can also be elicited within fixed auditory sequences with deviant probabilities of 0.25, 0.33, and 0.5. Deviants varied either in pitch, loudness, or sound source location. In all conditions MMN and P3a were elicited, suggesting that an automatic detection of and an attentional allocation to the change occurred. With relative frequencies of 25% and 33%, deviants also yielded a RT prolongation and a RON, suggesting reorientation to the relevant task. Our study demonstrates the ability to detect frequent and predictable changes automatically and shows behavioral effects in two conditions.