Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Intelligence and Cognitive Flexibility: Fluid Intelligence Correlates with Feature "Unbinding" across Perception and Action

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Intelligence and Cognitive Flexibility: Fluid Intelligence Correlates with Feature "Unbinding" across Perception and Action

Article excerpt

People integrate the features of perceived events and of action plans, as well as of episodic stimulus-response relations, into event files. We investigated whether the management of event files, and particularly the speed of updating the binding between the task-relevant stimulus feature and the response, correlates with fluid intelligence. Indeed, the performance of participants scoring high on Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices test was less impaired by a mismatch between the stimulus-response relation in the current and the previous trial. This result suggests that high intelligence is accompanied by a higher degree of flexibility in handling event files-that is, by higher efficiency in updating episodic representations.

One of the most discussed issues in cognitive psychology is what has become known as the binding problem (Treisman, 1996)-that is, the question of how the human (or primate) brain is able to properly integrate all information about a particular event. In perception, there must be a mechanism that functionally links the features of an object to what Kahneman, Treisman, and Gibbs (1992) have called an object file-that is, a temporary cognitive structure containing all the perceptual information about an object, and perhaps even episodic and semantic information. Since comparable binding problems exist in action planning (Stoet & Hommel, 1999) and in coordinating perceptual codes and action plans (Hommel, 1998; Hommel, Müsseier, Aschersleben, & Prinz, 2001), it makes sense to assume that perceiving and acting require the creation of all sorts of event files (Hommel, 1998, 2004). In this article, we address the question of whether and how the cognitive management of event files is correlated with fluid intelligence, as measured by Spearman's g. There are three lines of reasoning that motivated us to consider a link between intelligence and event file handling.

First, event files are temporary structures that must be held and updated in working memory-a system whose flexibility has been shown to correlate with fluid intelligence (Duncan et al., 2000). To see how intelligence may relate to event files, let us consider the task from Hommel (1998), which we adopted for the present study (see Figure 1). In this task, participants are cued to prepare a left- or right-hand keypress (R1), which they carry out as soon as a first stimulus (S1) appears. The identity of S1 does not matter for the response, but it varies in shape, location, and color. One second later a second stimulus (S2) appears, signaling Response 2 (R2), a binary-choice response to the shape of S2 (S2 color and location are entirely irrelevant to this version of the task). Performance in such a task reveals interesting interactions between repetition effects: Performance is impaired in partial-repetition trials-that is, if one of the stimulus features or the response is repeated but another element is not (e.g., if shape repeats but location does not, or vice versa, or shape repeats but the response does not, or vice versa). These partial-repetition costs suggest that the stimulus and response features of S1 and R1 are still bound when S2 appears, so that repeating a given feature (in S2) will retrieve all the event files the code of that feature has become a part of (Hommel, 1998, 2004). This creates conflict between the retrieved codes and those activated by the current S2, thus delaying reaction times and increasing error rates. These effects can be considered to represent the costs incurred by updating (i.e., modifying the structure of) an event file, and thus to be a measure of the flexibility in managing one's cognitive representations. If so, and if we consider that working-memory-related measures of flexibility are associated with fluid intelligence measures (Duncan et al., 2000), we would expect that partial-repetition costs would be reduced in people scoring high in fluid intelligence. Since updating would only be necessary for the task-relevant feature relation (here, between stimulus shape and response), we would expect that the impact of intelligence is restricted to the corresponding (i. …

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