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Interference by process, not content, determines semantic auditory distraction

Marsh, John Everett ORCID:, Hughes, Robert Wyn and Jones, Dylan Marc ORCID: 2009. Interference by process, not content, determines semantic auditory distraction. Cognition 110 (1) , pp. 23-38. 10.1016/j.cognition.2008.08.003

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Distraction by irrelevant background sound of visually-based cognitive tasks illustrates the vulnerability of attentional selectivity across modalities. Four experiments centred on auditory distraction during tests of memory for visually-presented semantic information. Meaningful irrelevant speech disrupted the free recall of semantic category-exemplars more than meaningless irrelevant sound (Experiment 1). This effect was exacerbated when the irrelevant speech was semantically related to the to-be-remembered material (Experiment 2). Importantly, however, these effects of meaningfulness and semantic relatedness were shown to arise only when instructions emphasized recall by category rather than by serial order (Experiments 3 and 4). The results favor a process-oriented, rather than a structural, approach to the breakdown of attentional selectivity and forgetting: performance is impaired by the similarity of process brought to bear on the relevant and irrelevant material, not the similarity in item content.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Auditory distraction; Semantic interference; Selective attention; Interference-by-process; Semantic-category clustering
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0010-0277
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 12:54

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