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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2012 Jun;38(3):675-86. doi: 10.1037/a0025902. Epub 2011 Oct 17.

Conflict-induced perceptual filtering.

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Experimental Psychology Unit, Helmut-Schmidt-University/University of Federal Armed Forces Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


In a variety of conflict paradigms, target and distractor stimuli are defined in terms of perceptual features. Interference evoked by distractor stimuli tends to be reduced when the ratio of congruent to incongruent trials is decreased, suggesting conflict-induced perceptual filtering (i.e., adjusting the processing weights assigned to stimuli associated with the target and with the distractor features). In search of evidence for such a mechanism, we administered a flanker task, in which targets and distractors were defined in terms of stimulus location (Experiment 1) or color (Experiment 2). The efficiency of processing stimuli associated with target and distractor features was assessed in intermixed trials of a visual search task, in which a target had to be detected irrespective of these features. In both experiments search times were shorter for stimuli associated with the target feature than with the distractor feature of the flanker task. This effect was increased under conditions of a reduced congruent/incongruent ratio, thereby providing evidence for conflict-dependent perceptual filtering.

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