Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Stimulus-Response Bindings Code Both Abstract and Specific Representations of Stimuli: Evidence from a Classification Priming Design That Reverses Multiple Levels of Response Representation

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Stimulus-Response Bindings Code Both Abstract and Specific Representations of Stimuli: Evidence from a Classification Priming Design That Reverses Multiple Levels of Response Representation

Article excerpt

Abstract Repetition priming can be caused by the rapid retrieval of previously encoded stimulus-response (S-R) bindings. S-R bindings have recently been shown to simultaneously code multiple levels of response representation, from specific Motor-actions to more abstract Decisions ("yes"/"no") and Classifications (e.g., "man-made"/"natural"). Using an experimental design that reverses responses at all of these levels, we assessed whether S-R bindings also code multiple levels of stimulus representation. Across two experiments, we found effects of response reversal on priming when switching between object pictures and object names, consistent with S-R bindings that code stimuli at an abstract level. Nonetheless, the size of this reversal effect was smaller for such across-format (e.g., word-picture) repetition than for within-format (e.g., picture-picture) repetition, suggesting additional coding of format-specific stimulus representations. We conclude that S-R bindings simultaneously represent both stimuli and responses at multiple levels of abstraction.

Keywords Repetition priming . Component processes . Perceptual priming . Response learning

When a stimulus is repeatedly classified, the reaction time (RT) to make that classification often decreases with repetition. Recent research has shown that a large proportion of this repetition priming reflects the retrieval of stimulus-response (S-R) bindings (Denkinger & Koutstaal 2009; Horner & Henson, 2009; Schnyer, Dobbins, Nicholls, Schacter, & Verfaellie, 2006). According to this view, the co-occurrence of a stimulus and response during the initial classification results in the encoding of an "instance" (Logan, 1990), or "event file" (Hommel, 1998). Cuing of this S-R binding when the stimulus is repeated allows for the rapid retrieval of a response, potentially by passing the perceptual and semantic processes that were engaged by its initial classification (Dobbins, Schnyer, Verfaellie, & Schacter, 2004).

Such S-R theories have been used to explain a range of phenomena, including subliminal masked priming (Abrams, Klinger, & Greenwald, 2002; Damian, 2001), negative priming (Frings, Rothermund, & Wentura, 2007; Rothermund, Wentura,& De Houwer, 2005) and itemspecific task-switch costs (Koch & Allport, 2006; Posse, Waszak, & Hommel, 2006; Waszak, Hommel, & Allport, 2003). More recently, long-lag repetition priming within speeded classification paradigms has suggested multiple, simultaneous levels of response representation within S-R bindings (Horner & Henson, 2009), with evidence for separate contributions from Motor-actions (e.g., a right/left finger press), more abstract Decisions (e.g., "yes"/"no") and even task-dependent Classifications (e.g., "bigger"/ "smaller") (see Fig. 1a).

These S-R accounts of priming contrast with the common conception that priming reflects the facilitation of one or more of the cognitive processes that were engaged during initial presentation of the stimulus (Blaxton, 1989; Roediger & McDermott, 1993; Roediger, Weldon, & Challis, 1993). For example, faster visual identification of the stimulus (a perceptual process) and/or faster extraction of task-relevant semantic information (a conceptual process) might also contribute to the shorter RTs for primed stimuli. Such component process (CP) theories generally predict that the amount of priming depends on the degree of overlap between the stimulus-specific processes engaged during initial and subsequent presentations (Franks, Bilbrey, Lien & McNamara, 2000; Morris, Bransford, & Franks, 1977). However, evidence for such CP theories cannot be established unless effects of S-R retrieval are controlled. This issue has been appreciated for some time, and clear evidence of priming has been found under conditions where S-R bindings would not seem relevant (e.g., when a word is repeated from a naming task to a lexical decision task; Bowers & Turner, 2003). …

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