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Ignoring a distractor on a prime trial generally impairs responses to that object on a subsequent probe trial. This negative-priming (NP) effect supports the notion that distracting objects are actively inhibited during target selection (Tipper, 1985). Alternatively, NP may be caused either by a mismatch between the features of items across prime and probe trials (Park & Kanwisher, 1994) or by the episodic retrieval of information from the prime trial which conflicts with the current, correct response (Neill & Valdes, 1992). These alternative accounts are called the selective inhibition, feature mismatching, and episodic retrieval hypotheses, respectively. The present paper reviews the NP literature and considers the evidence for each of the three accounts. Feature mismatching does produce NP in a limited number of cases, but it is not a necessary condition for NP. In other cases, NP must be due to either selective inhibition or episodic retrieval of previously ignored distractors. Though results from critical tests designed to discriminate among these hypotheses have not yet been reported, such results are crucial for both theoretical and practical reasons. © 1995 Psychonomic Society, Inc.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Publication Date





145 - 173