Schedule of Events | Search Abstracts | Symposia | Invited Symposia | Poster Sessions | Data Blitz Sessions

Poster D6

When distraction interferes with natural behaviour

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Dejan Draschkow1 (, Levi Kumle1, Melissa Võ2, Anna C. Nobre3; 1University of Oxford, 2Goethe University Frankfurt, 3Yale University

Visual distraction is a ubiquitous aspect of everyday life. Consider following a recipe when baking. We have no trouble finding the necessary utensils and ingredients in the kitchen and combining them into a comforting product. During such natural behaviours, we often encounter many competing visual objects (distractors) while we hold relevant objects in mind (e.g., seeing the flour as we search for the sugar). Despite the distractions, we usually succeed in completing our behavioural goals. Studying the consequences of distraction during such temporally extended tasks, however, is not tractable with traditional methods. To solve this, we developed a virtual reality approach that segments complex behaviour into cognitive subcomponents, including encoding, visual search, working memory usage, and decision-making. Participants copied a model display by selecting objects from a resource pool and placing them into a workspace. By manipulating the distractibility of objects in the resource pool, we discovered dissociable but interacting effects of distraction across the different cognitive subcomponents. Distraction slowed down behaviour and increased costly body movements. Critically, distraction increased encoding demands, interfered with visual search, and decreased reliance on working memory. We could successfully trace the consequences of distraction all the way to the decision-making processes that gate memory usage. Our findings reveal that distraction has focal instead of widespread effects on behaviour but has cascading consequences on core cognitive processes.

Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Working memory


CNS Account Login


April 13–16  |  2024