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26-12-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2019 Open Access

Psychological Research 1/2019

Distract yourself: prediction of salient distractors by own actions and external cues

Psychological Research > Uitgave 1/2019
Ondřej Havlíček, Hermann J. Müller, Agnieszka Wykowska
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Distracting sensory events can capture attention, interfering with the performance of the task at hand. We asked: is our attention captured by such events if we cause them ourselves? To examine this, we employed a visual search task with an additional salient singleton distractor, where the distractor was predictable either by the participant’s own (motor) action or by an endogenous cue; accordingly, the task was designed to isolate the influence of motor and non-motor predictive processes. We found both types of prediction, cue- and action-based, to attenuate the interference of the distractor—which is at odds with the “attentional white bear” hypothesis, which states that prediction of distracting stimuli mandatorily directs attention towards them. Further, there was no difference between the two types of prediction. We suggest this pattern of results may be better explained by theories postulating general predictive mechanisms, such as the framework of predictive processing, as compared to accounts proposing a special role of action–effect prediction, such as theories based on optimal motor control. However, rather than permitting a definitive decision between competing theories, our study highlights a number of open questions, to be answered by these theories, with regard to how exogenous attention is influenced by predictions deriving from the environment versus our own actions.

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