We review a series of studies exploring distractor suppression. It is often assumed that preparatory distractor suppression is controlled via top-down mechanisms of attention akin to those that prepare brain areas for target enhancement. Here, we consider two alternative mechanisms: secondary inhibition and expectation suppression within a predictive coding framework. We draw on behavioural studies, evidence from neuroimaging and some animal studies.
We conclude that there is very limited evidence for selective top-down control of preparatory inhibition. By contrast, we argue that distractor suppression often relies secondary inhibition of non-target items (relatively non-selective inhibition) and on statistical regularities of the environment, learned through direct experience.