Distractor devaluation in a flanker task: Object-specific effects without distractor recognition memory

Torsten Martiny-Huenger, Peter M. Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has shown that ignored stimuli are affectively devalued (i.e., distractor devaluation effect). Whereas previous research used feature-based selection tasks to investigate distractor devaluation, we used an object-based paradigm, allowing us to investigate open questions regarding underlying mechanisms. First, by using an object-based paradigm, we expected to find distractor devaluation for specific distractors (in contrast to general effects for certain categories). Second, we expected distractor devaluation in the absence of explicit recall of the to-be-evaluated stimulus' prior status (e.g., distractor), which is an important and previously untested factor, in order to exclude alternative explanations for distractor devaluation. Third, derived from the devaluation-by-inhibition hypothesis, we predicted that conditions of stronger distractor interference would result in stronger distractor devaluation. These predictions were confirmed in two experiments. We thus provide evidence that distractor devaluation can be a consequence of selective attention processes and that the evaluative consequences of ignoring can be tied to the mental representation of specific distractors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-625
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Distractor devaluation
  • Evaluation
  • Interference
  • Selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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