Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibited Prime-Trial Distractor Responses Solely Produce the Visual Spatial Negative Priming Effect

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibited Prime-Trial Distractor Responses Solely Produce the Visual Spatial Negative Priming Effect

Article excerpt

Published online: 8 September 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract Responding to a target's current (probe trial) location is slower when it appears at a former distractoroccupied position (i.e., ignored-repetition [IR] trial), relative to when it arises at a new location (i.e., control trial). This RT(IR) > RT(Control) inequality defines the spatial negative priming (SNP) effect in latency terms. It is uncertain whether the elevated RT(IR) is due to the inhibition of the distractor-occupied location or to the inhibition of this location's assigned manual response (SNP locus issue). The main aim here was to examine the SNP locus issue. Notably, our SNP design used centrally presented visual events and included having two locations share a common response (many:1 location-to-response mapping) and the use of informative (70 % validity) or uninformative probe-trial response cues. The many:1 mapping trials allowed for the detection of location and response inhibition presence. Results showed that the latter, but not the former, causes inhibitory aftereffects (e.g., SNP) following uninformative response cues. Consistent with this finding, when the informative response cue was valid and was assigned to the many:1 probe response that had just served as the prime distractor response, inhibitory aftereffects were eliminated, when the probe target appeared at the prime distractor position (IR trial) or at a new location (distractor-response repeat trial). Blocked retrieval of stored distractorprocessing representations was proposed as the mechanism for inhibitory aftereffect prevention.

Keywords Inhibition . Negative priming . Spatial cognition


Inhibitory aftereffects refer to those instances where the consequences of prior distractor processing later interfere with ongoing related processing. One exemplar of an inhibitory aftereffect is the spatial negative priming (SNP) phenomenon (e.g., Neill, Terry, & Valdes, 1994; Tipper, Brehaut, & Driver, 1990). With the particular SNP task procedures of interest here, the arrival of a warning signal forecasts the impending appearance of various centrally positioned bar markers on a computer screen that designate the potential locations for upcoming target or distractor event presentations, which can appear singly or together. Typically, each bar marker is assigned a single, spatially compatible, keyboard button response (1:1 location-response mapping). The task is to depress the keyboard button assigned to the location occupied by the target stimulus (e.g., green rectangle) as quickly as possible, while concurrently ignoring any distractor event that might be present (e.g., red rectangle). Trials are then presented in pairs: first the "prime," and then the "probe," each lasting about 200 ms. When the probe trial delivery is sufficiently delayed (about 400+ms), the reaction time (RT) is longer, and buttonpress errors sometimes more numerous, when the probe target appears at the location formerly occupied by the prime distractor event (i.e., ignored-repetition [IR] trial type), relative to when it appears at a previously empty location (i.e., control trial type) (e.g., Buckolz, Avramidis, & Fitzgeorge, 2008; Fitzgeorge& Buckolz, 2008; Neill et al., 1994). The RT (IR) > RT(Control) latency inequality and, sometimes, the IR > control buttonpress error rate imbalance are used to index the presence of the spatial negative priming effect.

Initially, the cause of the visual SNP effect and, hence, the reason for the delayed responding on IR trials were attributed to the inhibition of the distractor-occupied primetrial location, which somehow interfered with probe target processing when the target later appeared there (i.e., IR trial) (e.g., Christie & Klein, 2001; Connelly & Hasher, 1993; Neill, Valdes, & Terry, 1995). More recently, however, evidence opposing the location-inhibition account of SNP production has been accumulating. …

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