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Cognitive Science Fall 2015 Brown Bag Talk


How Task Goals Prevent Distraction by Salient Events

Dr. Roger Remington

Professor Emeritusr, School of Psychology

University of Queensland

Tuesday, September 15th, 11:30 am Tolentine 303A


The distracting effects of salient events can be greatly reduced, even eliminated, when those events do not share features with the active search goal. It has been proposed that such feature selectivity works by drawing on similar neural resources to those required for working memory (WM). If so, the ability to bias attention to goal-relevant features should be reduced when observers are under high WM load, and in individuals with a low WM capacity. I discuss work with colleagues using electroencephalography (EEG) to record brain activity while observers monitored dynamic stimulus streams for targets defined by a particular feature value (e.g., the color red). The first experiment replicated previous findings that distractors possessing the target feature value evoke a larger N2pc (an electrophysiological marker of attentional capture), and slow target responses more, than distractors with a non-target feature. Subsequent experiments showed that increasing WM load impaired performance on the attention task in general, but did not reduce feature-based biases on attention. The findings suggest that WM and feature-based attention draw upon separate pools of neural resources. This conclusion has implications for how frontal areas involved in goal maintenance interact with parietal areas involved in selective attention to prevent distraction by salient events.



Recent Speakers:

  • Spring 2014, Dr. Brian Scassellati, Yale University
  • Fall 2013, Dr. Julio Villa-Garcia, Villanova University
  • Spring 2012, Dr. Larry Barsalou, Emory University
  • Fall 2011, Dr. Georg Theiner, Villanova University
  • Spring 2011, Dr. Russell Romeo, Michigan State University
  • Spring 2011 - Dr. Lance Kriegsfeld, University of California – Berkeley
  • Fall 2010 - Dr. Anjan Chatterjee from the University of Pennsylvania
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  • Fall 2007 - Dr. Susan Goldin-Meadow from the University of Chicago
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