Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 139–144 | Cite as

What causes auditory distraction?

  • William J. MackenEmail author
  • Fiona G. Phelps
  • Dylan M. Jones
Brief Reports


The role of separating task-relevant from task-irrelevant aspects of the environment is typically assigned to the executive functioning of working memory. However, pervasive aspects of auditory distraction have been shown to be unrelated to working memory capacity in a range of studies of individual differences. We measured individual differences in global pattern matching and deliberate recoding of auditory sequences, and showed that, although deliberate processing was related to short-term memory performance, it did not predict the extent to which that performance was disrupted by task-irrelevant sound. Individual differences in global sequence processing were, however, positively related to the degree to which auditory distraction occurred. We argue that much auditory distraction, rather than being a negative function of working memory capacity, is in fact a positive function of the acuity of obligatory auditory processing.


Serial Recall Articulatory Suppression Irrelevant Speech Auditory Distraction Auditory Sequence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. Macken
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fiona G. Phelps
    • 1
  • Dylan M. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyCardiff UniversityCardiffWales

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