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The dissociation between the P3a event-related potential and behavioral distraction


  • This research was funded by the German Research Foundation (Project No. WE5026/1-1). We thank Carolin Dietz and Sandra Schenck for their help in data collection. We cordially thank all the individuals who participated in the present study.


Unexpected novel sounds can capture our attention and impair performance. Recent behavioral research revealed that only novel sounds that provided target-related (but not task-related) information impaired performance. This poses the question of the automaticity of novelty processing and its expression at the behavioral level. In an auditory-visual oddball paradigm, the informational content of sounds regarding the time and probability of target occurrence was varied. Independent from the informational content, novel, and deviant sounds elicited the P3a, an ERP-component related to novelty processing. In contrast, impaired performance was only observed if target-related information was provided. Results indicate that distractor sounds are automatically evaluated as potentially significant, but that the consequences for behavior depend on further processes such as the processing of the given information.

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