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Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2018 Jun;71(6):1382-1395. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2017.1344867. Epub 2018 Jan 1.

Intentional preparation of auditory attention-switches: Explicit cueing and sequential switch-predictability.

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1 Department of Cognitive and Experimental Psychology, Institute for Psychology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.
2 Medical Acoustics Group, Institute of Technical Acoustics, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.


In an auditory attention-switching paradigm, participants heard two simultaneously spoken number-words, each presented to one ear, and decided whether the target number was smaller or larger than 5 by pressing a left or right key. An instructional cue in each trial indicated which feature had to be used to identify the target number (e.g., female voice). Auditory attention-switch costs were found when this feature changed compared to when it repeated in two consecutive trials. Earlier studies employing this paradigm showed mixed results when they examined whether such cued auditory attention-switches can be prepared actively during the cue-stimulus interval. This study systematically assessed which preconditions are necessary for the advance preparation of auditory attention-switches. Three experiments were conducted that controlled for cue-repetition benefits, modality switches between cue and stimuli, as well as for predictability of the switch-sequence. Only in the third experiment, in which predictability for an attention-switch was maximal due to a pre-instructed switch-sequence and predictable stimulus onsets, active switch-specific preparation was found. These results suggest that the cognitive system can prepare auditory attention-switches, and this preparation seems to be triggered primarily by the memorised switching-sequence and valid expectations about the time of target onset.


attention-switching; auditory attention; dichotic listening; selective attention; task-switching

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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