Negative priming (NP) effects from irrelevant distractors were assessed as a function of perceptual load in the processing of prime targets. Participants searched for a target letter among a varying number of nontarget letters in the center of the display and ignored an irrelevant peripheral distractor. NP from this distractor was found to depend on the relevant search set size, decreasing as this set size was increased. The authors conclude that exhausting attention in relevant processing reduces irrelevant processing (e.g., N. Lavie, 1995), leaving less distractor processing to produce NP. This conclusion is consistent with recent reactive inhibition views for NP (e.g., G. Houghton, S. P. Tipper, B. Weaver, & D. I. Shore, 1996).
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