Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Dissociating Object- and Response-Based Components of Negative Priming through Effects of Practice

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Dissociating Object- and Response-Based Components of Negative Priming through Effects of Practice

Article excerpt

The negative priming (NP) effect is the slowing of responses to an imperative stimulus (probe) that has recently been ignored (prime). Prevailing accounts of the phenomenon attribute it to a variety of causes, all centered on a representation of the stimulus event itself. However, we argue that the most commonly used NP paradigms confound stimulus- and response-based factors. In two experiments, we demonstrate the importance of response factors in producing NP and show clear empirical dissociations between object- and response-centered NP when studying their time courses over extended practice. When distractors compete for a response (response-based), the NP effect is both more robust and more resistant to the effects of practice. On the other hand, when prime distractors do not compete for response (object-based), they yield weaker NP effects that disappear with practice. We conclude that the NP effects shown in the most common procedures are produced by a combination of distinct factors that tend to act in the same direction.

Practiced actions can be evoked and executed in a rather automatic fashion, such as when we turn on a light switch on entering a familiar room, even in daylight. Sometimes, such automatisms have to be avoided to prevent them from interfering with other objectives. For instance, a British driver (used to right-hand-drive cars) renting a left-handdrive car when abroad may find his/her left hand still reaching for the gearshift, only to end up groping the door handle. Thus, as well as defining the desired end goal of an action (get hold of the gearshift), intentional behavior sometimes requires the suppression of automatic responses that are contextually inappropriate.

In experimental psychology, the activation and control of contextually irrelevant representations are usually studied with a variety of selective attention paradigms. Several studies have shown that to-be-ignored stimuli (distractors) automatically activate several kinds of representation, such as physical and semantic ones (Marcel, 1983; Underwood, 1976), as well as their associated responses (De long, Liang, & Lauber, 1994; DeSoto, Fabiani, Geary, & Gratton, 2001; Eimer & Schlaghecken, 1998; B. A. Eriksen & C. W. Eriksen, 1974; Miller, 1991 ). This implies that, for the control of a goal-directed action, attentional selection can take place at many levels of representation from perception to action (Tipper, Weaver, & Houghton, 1994).

Two mechanisms are commonly proposed to achieve this attentional control: One boosts the level of activation of task-relevant information with respect to background levels (see, e.g., Desimone & Duncan, 1995; Houghton & Tipper, 1994), whereas another can specifically suppress irrelevant, nontarget information (Bowman, Schlaghecken, & Eimer, 2006; Caputo & Guerra, 1998; Cepeda, Cave, Bichot, & Kim, 1998; Gernsbacher & Faust, 1991; Houghton & Tipper, 1994, 1996; Orekhova, Stroganova, & Posikera, 2001; Tipper, 1985; Watson & Humphreys, 1997; West & Alain, 2000). One means by which the consequences of inhibitory selection are studied is with the negative priming (NP) procedure (Tipper, 1985). The logic of this procedure is that if the internal representations of a distractor in a prime display are inhibited, then processing of a subsequent object (in a probe or target display), which makes contact with these inhibited representations, will be impaired (e.g., slowed). For example, when participants are required to respond to one of two simultaneously presented letters (e.g., A, B), then during the selection of a target letter (say, A), information regarding the distractor letter (B) may be subject to inhibition. If so, subsequent processing of the same letter (B), which is assumed to require access to the inhibited representation, will be impaired.

This result has been observed in many experimental procedures and has given rise to a number of different accounts (Houghton & Tipper, 1994; Milliken, Joordens, Merikle, & Seiffert, 1998; Neill, Valdes, Terry, & Gorfein, 1992; Tipper, 1985; Tipper & Cranston, 1985). …

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