The “distractor-frequency effect” refers to the finding that high-frequency (HF) distractor words slow picture naming less than low-frequency distractors in the picture–word interference paradigm. Rival input and output accounts of this effect have been proposed. The former attributes the effect to attentional selection mechanisms operating during distractor recognition, whereas the latter attributes it to monitoring/decision mechanisms operating on distractor and target responses in an articulatory buffer. Using high-density (128-channel) EEG, we tested hypotheses from these rival accounts. In addition to conducting stimulus- and response-locked whole-brain corrected analyses, we investigated the correct-related negativity, an ERP observed on correct trials at fronto-central electrodes proposed to reflect the involvement of domain general monitoring. The whole-brain ERP analysis revealed a significant effect of distractor frequency at inferior right frontal and temporal sites between 100 and 300-msec post-stimulus onset, during which lexical access is thought to occur. Response-locked, region of interest (ROI) analyses of fronto-central electrodes revealed a correct-related negativity starting 121 msec before and peaking 125 msec after vocal onset on the grand averages. Slope analysis of this component revealed a significant difference between HF and low-frequency distractor words, with the former associated with a steeper slope on the time window spanning from 100 msec before to 100 msec after vocal onset. The finding of ERP effects in time windows and components corresponding to both lexical processing and monitoring suggests the distractor frequency effect is most likely associated with more than one physiological mechanism.

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