Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Frequency of the First Feature in Action Sequences Influences Feature Binding

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Frequency of the First Feature in Action Sequences Influences Feature Binding

Article excerpt

Published online: 10 July 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract We investigated whether binding among perception and action feature codes is a preliminary step toward creating a more durable memory trace of an action event. If so, increasing the frequency of a particular event (e.g., a stimulus requiring a movement with the leftor right hand in an up or down direction) should increase the strength and speed of feature binding for this event. The results from two experiments, using a partial-repetition paradigm, confirmed that feature binding increased in strength and/or occurred earlier for a high-frequency (e.g., lefthand moving up) than for a low-frequency (e.g., right hand moving down) event. Moreover, increasing the frequency of the first-specified feature in the action sequence alone (e.g., "left" hand) increased the strength and/or speed of action feature binding (e.g., between the "left" hand and movement in an "up" or "down" direction). The latter finding suggests an update to the theory of event coding, as not all features in the action sequence equally determine binding strength. We conclude that action planning involves serial binding of features in the order of action feature execution (i.e., associations among features are not bidirectional but are directional), which can lead to a more durable memory trace. This is consistent with physiological evidence suggesting that serial order is preserved in an action plan executed from memory and that the first feature in the action sequence may be critical in preserving this serial order.

Keywords Perception and action . Repetition effects . Priming . Action planning

The primate brain codes both perceptual features (e.g., the shape, color, and movement of an object) and action features (e.g., a limb and the movement direction of the limb) in a distributed fashion, with each feature represented by a distinct cell assembly in different areas of the brain (Georgopoulos, 1990; Kalaska & Hyde, 1985; Riehle & Requin, 1989; Treisman, 1996). Because people often carry out more than one task at a time, the stimuli and responses that belong to the same task (event) may be temporarily linked (or bound) to some degree to keep the perception and actions relevant to one event separate from those relevant to another (Hommel, 2004, 2005). The theory of event coding (TEC) assumes that feature codes-meaning-based representations of perceptual stimuli and intended action operations (e.g., the code "left" for a left-moving stimulus or for a left-hand response)-are activated and are temporarily bound so as to represent a single event (Fournier, Wiediger, McMeans, Mattson, Kirkwood, & Herzog, 2010; Hommel, Müsseler, Aschersleben, & Prinz, 2001; Müsseler & Hommel, 1997; Wiediger & Fournier, 2008; Wühr, 2006). Temporary bindings among the perception and action feature codes associated with the same event are referred to as an "event file" or action plan (Hommel et al., 2001). Although event files (and, hence, action plans) are assumed to be temporary representational structures, it is possible that the binding of perception and action feature codes is a preliminary step toward creating a long-term representational structure (Colzato, Raffone, & Hommel, 2006). Consistent with this assumption, some evidence indicates that perception and action information can be represented as an integrated structure in long-term memory. For example, passive observations of tools (e.g., scissors) can evoke neuronal activation in different cortical motor areas associated with tool use (Chao &Martin, 2000; Grafton, Fadiga, Arbib, & Rizzolatti, 1997; Martin, Wiggs, Ungerleider, & Haxby, 1996).

If binding among perception and action feature codes is a preliminary step toward creating a more durable memory trace of the action event, then increasing the frequency of a particular event should increase the strength and speed of feature binding of this event prior to forming a long-term memory structure (Colzato, Raffone, & Hommel, 2006). …

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