Effect of Bilingualism and Computer Video Game Experience on the Simon Task

Article excerpt

Abstract

A group of 97 participants who were monolingual or bilingual and who had extensive practice playing computer video games or not completed two Simon tasks. The tasks were presented in two conditions that manipulated the number of response switches required in each block of trials. Bilingualism and video-game experience each influenced a different aspect of performance: Video-game players were faster in most conditions, including control conditions that did not include conflict from irrelevant position; bilinguals were faster only in a condition that required the most controlled attention to resolve conflict from the position and the stimulus. The results show the potential of experience to modify performance and point to subtle processing differences in various versions of the Simon task.

Résumé Un groupe composé de 97 participants unilingues ou bilingues, adeptes ou non de jeux vidéo à l'ordinateur, ont effectué deux tâches de Simon. Les tâches étaient présentées en fonction de deux conditions expérimentales, qui modifiaient le nombre de permutations nécessaires aux réponses données à chaque bloc d'essais expérimentaux. Le bilinguisme et la pratique des jeux vidéo à l'ordinateur ont eu, tous deux, un effet sur un aspect distinct de la performance : les joueurs de jeux vidéo étaient plus rapides dans la plupart des conditions, y compris les conditions de contrôle qui n'entraînaient aucun conflit lorsque le participant choisissait une position non pertinente; les participants bilingues étaient plus rapides uniquement lorsqu'ils étaient soumis à la condition qui demandait le niveau le plus élevé d'attention pour résoudre un conflit provoqué par la position et le stimulus. Les résultats de l'étude montrent que l'expérience peut modifier le rendement et met en évidence des différences de traitement subtiles pendant l'exécution de différentes versions de la tâche de Simon.

The Simon task, developed as a means of studying the relationship between gender and handedness (Simon & Rudell, 1967), has become a powerful tool for demonstrating the effect of stimulus-response compatibility on performance and is the basis for a wide range of research investigating attentional processes and executive functions (review in Lu & Proctor, 1995). In the task, stimuli containing both position and response information are presented with a rule that requires participants to ignore the position and respond only to the relevant target feature. When the stimulus appears on the same display side as the correct response key, both position and response information converge on the correct response and the trial is called congruent. When the position conflicts with the correct response, the trials are called incongruent. The reliable increment in response time for the incongruent trials compared to the congruent ones, usually between 20 and 30 milliseconds, is the Simon effect.

The task is deceptively simple, yet the requirement to attend only to the target information in the face of conflicting position information engages a variety of processes. The most prevalent explanation for the Simon effect is that it reflects stimulus-response (S-R) incompatibility because of response-selection processes: The location is coded even though it is irrelevant, creating longer reaction times when the stimulus location and the response key are incongruent (Lu & Proctor, 1995). In the dual-route interpretation, the conflict is attributed to response-response (R-R) incompatibility: The position engages automatic processes that activate the same side response and the target information is processed by an intentional system that associates the feature with a response (Hommel, 1993). Conflicting outcomes from these two systems take time to resolve and create the Simon effect. Finally, in a formulation offered by Hommel, Proctor, and Vu (2004), the features from the position and the response are integrated into an "event file" and the sequence of these combinatory representations determines the response time for a particular trial. …