In most studies of selective attention, the experimenter informs the participant what the target is and what action is required. For example, participants may be told to name the red drawing. The present study shows that under such conditions of external selection, distractor inhibition is used to ensure that selection is efficient. In external selection, analysis of distractors is limited, causing later recognition of distractor items to be poor. In contrast, during real-world selection a person may be confronted with a number of potential targets and may have to decide what will be the target for action. Under these conditions of internal selection, inhibition of distracting information does not occur. Moreover, distractors are more fully analyzed and thus better recognized at a later test.
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