Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Determinants of the Benefit for Consistent Spatial Mappings in Dual-Task Performance of Three-Choice Tasks

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Determinants of the Benefit for Consistent Spatial Mappings in Dual-Task Performance of Three-Choice Tasks

Article excerpt

Performance of pairs of three-choice tasks shows a consistency benefit for which reaction times are shorter when the stimulus-response mappings for each task are consistent (both corresponding or both mirrored) than when they are inconsistent. In the present study, we examined whether this consistency benefit is reduced at long stimulus onset asynchronies, as it is for pairs of two-choice tasks, or is relatively unaffected, as it is for pairs of four-choice tasks. The consistency benefit was evident for both corresponding and mirrored mappings, at all intervals. For consistent mirrored mappings, the benefit was found for the side stimulus positions (for which responses are crossed) but not for the center position, whereas for consistent corresponding mappings, a benefit was evident for the center position as well. The results for both mappings are in agreement with an emergent mapping-choice account. The consistent corresponding mapping also benefits from subjects' ability to apply a respond-corresponding rule across tasks. An emergent perceptual-feature process that contributes to the consistency benefit for two-choice tasks does not seem to play a role in tasks with three or more choices.

When people must react to two stimuli from different tasks presented in close temporal proximity, the relation between the tasks can influence performance. For example, it is easier to perform the tasks when the stimulus and response modalities differ than when they are the same (e.g., Lien & Proctor, 2000). Also, when response sets for the tasks are similar (e.g., index- and middle-finger keypresses with the left hand for one task and with the right hand for the other), response-response (R-R) compatibility effects occur in which performance is better when the stimuli for both tasks signal spatially corresponding responses rather than noncorresponding responses (e.g., Hazeltine, 2005). Another factor, of most concern here, is consistency of the stimulus-response (S-R) mappings for the two tasks: Performance is better when the mappings for the two tasks are the same (both corresponding or both mirror opposite) than when they are different.

This consistency benefit has been obtained for pairs of two-, three-, and four-choice tasks, with the former showing an interaction of the benefit with stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) that implicates an emergent perceptual- feature account (Vu & Proctor, 2006) and the latter an absence of interaction that implicates an emergent mapping-choice account (Proctor & Vu, 2009). Existing data for three-choice tasks obtained by Duncan (1979) are ambiguous regarding the presence or absence of an interaction, because his longest SOA was less than half that used in other studies. Moreover, three-choice tasks have the unique characteristic that the response for the middle stimulus position is the corresponding middle response position, regardless of whether the task mapping is corresponding or mirror opposite. For this reason, Duncan (1979) reported data only for the side-position responses. However, the middle-position responses should also be informative about the influence of mapping consistency on response selection, because any differences between consistent and inconsistent mappings cannot be attributed to the local level of the individual S-R pairings. Therefore, in the present study, we provide a detailed examination of the consistency benefit in three-choice tasks with a wider range of SOAs and for both middle and side locations.

Consistency Benefit With Three-Choice Tasks

Duncan (1979) was the first to show the mapping consistency benefit, using pairs of three-choice reaction tasks in a psychological refractory period (PRP) paradigm, in which the onset of the stimulus for Task 1 (S1) preceded that for Task 2 (S2) by a variable SOA of 50, 250, or 450 MSec. For Task 1, the stimuli were vertical lines presented in one of three locations to the left of fixation, each assigned to a keypress response (R1) from the ring, middle, or index finger of the left hand. …

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