Ironic capture: Top-down expectations exacerbate distraction in visual search

Greg Huffman, Jason Rajsic, Jay Pratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Ironic processing refers to the phenomenon where attempting to resist doing something results in a person doing that very thing. Here, we report three experiments investigating the role of ironic processing in visual search. In Experiment 1, we informed observers that they could predict the location of a salient color singleton in a visual search task and found that response times were slower in that condition than in a condition where the singleton’s location was random. Experiment 2 used the same experimental design but did not inform participants of the color singleton’s behavior. Experiment 3 showed that the cost in the predictable condition was not due to dual task costs or block order effects and participants attempting to use the strategy showed a larger cost in the predictable condition than those who abandoned using that location foreknowledge. In this case, responses in the predictable color singleton condition were equivalent with the random color singleton condition. This suggests that having more knowledge about an upcoming, salient distractor ironically increases its interfering influence on performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1070-1082
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number5
Early online date25 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


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