Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Inhibitory Tagging in Inhibition of Return: Evidence from Flanker Interference with Multiple Distractor Features

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Inhibitory Tagging in Inhibition of Return: Evidence from Flanker Interference with Multiple Distractor Features

Article excerpt

Fuentes, Vivas, and Humphreys (1999) proposed a distinction between inhibition of return (IOR) and inhibitory processing taking place at a location subject to IOR. This latter mechanism, inhibitory tagging (IT), would act at a late level of processing related to response selection. In the present study, we examined whether IT was applied only to the target-relevant properties of the stimuli (e.g., to its color) or whether it was applied to other features of the stimulus as well (e.g., to its shape). Both when the task was to respond to the target's color (Experiment 1) as well as when it was to respond to the target's shape (Experiment 2), there was evidence of IT (reversal of the typical flanker effect at the cued location, relative to the uncued location) only to task-relevant features of the target. These findings suggest that IT is a central process of control constrained by task demands and current goals.

When attention is summoned by an uninformative exogenous cue that precedes the presentation of a target by more than 300 msec, response times (RTs) to stimuli that appear at that location are usually slower than RTs to stimuli that appear at uncued locations. It has been suggested that this effect, termed inhibition of return (IOR), reflects an attentional bias toward novelty (Posner & Cohen, 1984; Posner, Rafal, Choate, & Vaughan, 1985). IOR may aid visual search processes in cluttered environments by favoring attentional exploration of new items (Klein, 1988); consistent with this, it has been reported for up to four or five locations cued hi sequence (e.g., Danzinger, Kingstone, & Snyder, 1998; Snyder & Kingstone, 2000; Takeda & Yagi, 2000; Tipper, Weaver, & Watson, 1996).

For performance to be efficiently modulated by this attentional bias for novelty, it would be important to delay not only the orienting of attention to previously attended locations but also the processing of any information appearing at these locations. Fuentes, Vivas, and Humphreys (1999), for example, have proposed that biases against information at previously attended locations arise at a response stage of processing. They suggested that a process termed inhibitory tagging (IT) was applied to stimuli falling at earlier attended positions, hindering access to associated responses. The application of IT can explain why IOR interacts with processes other than those affecting attentional orienting, including semantic priming, flanker interference (Fuentes etal., 1999), Stroop interference (Vivas & Fuentes, 2001), and the Simon effect (Fuentes, Vivas, de Labra, Valle-Inclán, & Alonso, 2002; see also Ivanoff, Klein, & Lupiáñez, 2002). For example, Fuentes et al. (1999) found that semantic priming and distractor interference effects reverse when the prime and the distractor stimuli, respectively, are presented at the cued location in a IOR procedure; that is, RTs were faster when the prime was unrelated to the target, and/or when the target was flanked by incongruent rather than congruent distractors. In addition, the Stroop effect decreased (Vivas & Fuentes, 2001; Vivas, Humphreys, & Fuentes, 2003) and the Simon effect increased (Fuentes et al., 2002) when the target stimuli appeared at a cued location rather than at an uncued location. Although IOR seems to influence all these effects differently (decreasing one, increasing a second, and reversing a third), we believe that these results can be explained in terms of IT particularly affecting stimulus-response (S-R) codes that are either task relevant or task irrelevant, but mat are normally derived rapidly. In the flanker task, this temporary disconnection of S-R codes would produce slower RTs to central targets that share the same response with the distractor stimulus, at the cued location (in the compatible flanker condition), relative to those targets that generate the opposite response to the distractor (in the incompatible condition; Fuentes et al. …

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