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Interference from familiar natural distractors is not eliminated by high perceptual load


A crucial prediction of perceptual load theory is that high perceptual load can eliminate interference from distractors. However, Lavie et al. (Psychol Sci 14:510–515, 2003) found that high perceptual load did not eliminate interference when the distractor was a face. The current experiments examined the interaction between familiarity and perceptual load in modulating interference in a name search task. The data reveal that high perceptual load eliminated the interference effect for unfamiliar distractors that were faces or objects, but did not eliminate the interference for familiar distractors that were faces or objects. Based on these results, we proposed that the processing of familiar and natural stimuli may be immune to the effect of perceptual load.

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The current study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 30700226), the Key Discipline Fund of National 211 Project (Grant No. NSKD08010), and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 20080431271). Thanks are due to two anonymous reviewers and Bernhard Hommel for their helpful comments on an earlier draft, and to Robert West for his comments and language corrections.

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Correspondence to Antao Chen.

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He, C., Chen, A. Interference from familiar natural distractors is not eliminated by high perceptual load. Psychological Research 74, 268–276 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-009-0252-0

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  • Interference Effect
  • Congruency Effect
  • Congruent Trial
  • Perceptual Load
  • Response Time Data