The Distractor Positivity Component and the Inhibition of Distracting Stimuli

Nicholas Gaspelin*, Dominique Lamy, Howard E. Egeth, Heinrich R. Liesefeld, Dirk Kerzel, Ananya Mandal, Matthias M. Müller, Jeffrey D. Schall, Anna Schubö, Heleen A. Slagter, Brad T. Stilwell, Dirk van Moorselaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been a long-lasting debate about whether salient stimuli, such as uniquely colored objects, have the ability to automatically distract us. To resolve this debate, it has been suggested that salient stimuli do attract attention but that they can be suppressed to prevent distraction. Some research supporting this viewpoint has focused on a newly discovered ERP component called the distractor positivity (PD), which is thought to measure an inhibitory attentional process. This collaborative review summarizes previous research relying on this component with a specific emphasis on how the PDhas been used to understand the ability to ignore distracting stimuli. In particular, we outline how the PDcomponent has been used to gain theoretical insights about how search strategy and learning can influence distraction. We also review alternative accounts of the cognitive processes indexed by the PDcomponent. Ultimately, we conclude that the PDcomponent is a useful tool for understanding inhibitory processes related to distraction and may prove to be useful in other areas of study related to cognitive control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1693-1715
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023


FundersFunder number
National Science FoundationBCS-2045624


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