Visual evoked responses were monitored while participants searched for a target (e.g., bird) in a four-object display that could include a semantically related distractor (e.g., fish). The occurrence of both the target and the semantically related distractor modulated the N2pc response to the search display: The N2pc amplitude was more pronounced when the target and the distractor appeared in the same visual field, and it was less pronounced when the target and the distractor were in opposite fields, relative to when the distractor was absent. Earlier components (P1, N1) did not show any differences in activity across the different distractor conditions. The data suggest that semantic distractors influence early stages of selecting stimuli in multielement displays.

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