Recent studies indicate that subjects may respond to visual information during either an early parallel phase or a later focused phase and that the selection of the relevant phase is data driven. Using the noise-compatibility paradigm, we tested the hypothesis that this selection may also be strategic and context driven. At least part of the interference effect observed in this paradigm is due to response activation during the parallel-processing phase. We manipulated subjects' expectancies for compatible and incompatible noise in 4 experiments and effectively modulated the interference effect. The results suggest that expectancies about the relative utility of the information extracted during the parallel and focused phases determine which phase is used to activate responses.