Influence of attended repetition trials on negative priming in younger and older adults

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Psychonomic Society, Inc./Springer


A lengthened response time when a distractor becomes a target, called negative priming, is an undisputed phenomenon in selective attention, yet just what the underlying mechanism responsible for negative priming is has not been resolved. In this study, the proportion of attended repetition trials was manipulated in order to test the predictions of three theories that have been proposed for explaining spatial negative priming: distractor suppression (e.g., Tipper, 1985), episodic memory retrieval (e.g., Neill, Valdes, & Terry, 1995), and novelty bias (e.g., Milliken, Tipper, Houghton, & Lupiáñez, 2000). The results supported the proposal that a novelty bias, which is flexible and can be overridden, is the primary mechanism responsible for priming in spatial tasks. Memory retrieval obscured the novelty bias for target processing, was more selective in older adults, and did not affect distractor processing. Novelty bias and distractor suppression may share the same inhibitory attentional mechanism.