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The ability to attend to relevant events and to ignore irrelevant stimuli is crucial to survival. Theories disagree on whether this ability is dependent solely on increased neural activation for relevant items or whether active ignoring can also play a role. The authors examined the active ignoring of stimuli using a preview search procedure, where irrelevant faces appeared prior to relevant house stimuli. They found increased activation in brain regions associated with spatial memory and in content-specific face-processing areas when participants ignored the irrelevant faces. Differences arose even on trials when only previewed faces appeared, and the magnitude of these differences predicted how well faces were ignored in search. Activation associated with active ignoring decreased when a secondary task was imposed during the preview. The data reveal a neural marker for the process of actively ignoring the content and locations of irrelevant stimuli.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform

Publication Date





286 - 297


Adolescent, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Attention, Brain Mapping, Cerebral Cortex, Cues, Discrimination, Psychological, Female, Field Dependence-Independence, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Middle Aged, Reaction Time, Recognition, Psychology, Reference Values