Target–distractor congruency: sequential effects in a temporal flanker task

  • Miriam TomatEmail author
  • Mike Wendt
  • Aquiles Luna-Rodriguez
  • Michael Sprengel
  • Thomas Jacobsen
Original Article


The Congruency Sequence Effect (CSE) denotes the common finding that distractor–target Congruency Effects are reduced after incongruent compared to after congruent trials. Although the CSE is widely attributed to attentional adjustment (i.e., increasing or decreasing the bias in attentional weights regarding processing the target or distractor), unequivocal evidence for this assumption is missing. To investigate the CSE and attentional adjustment we used a temporal flanker task and intermixed a “temporal search task”, in which a target stimulus occurred randomly at one of two temporal positions, corresponding to the temporal positions of the target and the distractor occurrence in the temporal flanker task. We observed a CSE that could not be explained in terms of feature sequences, distractor-related contingencies, or a strategy of reversed distractor–response priming after incongruent trials. Furthermore, following a temporal search task trial, the Congruency Effect was larger when the search target occurred on the first than on the second temporal position, demonstrating that a reduced attentional bias towards the second temporal position increased interference from a distractor presented on the first temporal position. This supports a crucial assumption of the attentional adjustment account of the CSE. Performance in the temporal search task, however, provided no evidence for attentional adjustment.



This research was funded by a grant from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) WE 4105/1-2 to Mike Wendt.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Experimental Psychology UnitHelmut-Schmidt-University/University of the Federal Armed Forces HamburgHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Medical School HamburgHamburgGermany

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