Influences of a prior incompatible location mapping on tasks for which stimulus location is irrelevant

Kim-Phuong L Vu, Purdue University


Stimulus-response compatibility (SRC) is a major factor influencing the speed of response selection. It refers to the fact that responses are faster and more accurate when the stimuli and responses correspond spatially than when they do not. SRC effects occur when location information conveyed by the stimulus is relevant to the task (SRC proper) and when it is irrelevant (the Simon effect). Accounts for SRC proper and the Simon effect often attribute the benefit for corresponding trials, at least in part, to the stimulus automatically activating its corresponding response, and this activation is not easily overridden even after extensive practice on the task. However, several recent studies have shown that the Simon effect can be eliminated or reversed after practicing 72 trials of an SRC-proper task with an incompatible mapping. Eight experiments were conducted that varied the practice and transfer dimensions, retention interval, stimulus mode in the practice session, amount of practice, and representation of the practice task to determine (a) how and why the prior incompatible mapping defined for the SRC-proper task eliminates or reverses the visual Simon effect in the transfer session, (b) whether the stimulus-response (S-R) associations acquired in practice are general or context-specific, and (c) how the strength of these task-irrelevant associations changes over time. The transfer effect of an incompatible spatial location mapping on the visual Simon effect is due to subjects explicitly representing the practice task in terms of the incompatible relation, rather than just responding to the stimulus with a spatially noncorresponding response. The transfer effect is evident up to a week later, suggesting that the associations learned in the practice session are reactivated in the transfer session due to encoding specificity or procedural reinstatement. When the number of practice trials is small, the influence of the incompatible mapping is a consequence of acquiring specific S-R associations. However, as the amount of practice with the incompatible mapping increases, the transfer effect generalizes to a variety of situations. This outcome suggests that subjects are learning and acquiring S-R translation rules during practice, and these rules are transferred to the subsequent Simon task.




Proctor, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Cognitive therapy|Psychology|Experiments

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