Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Automatic Motor Activation by Mere Instruction

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Automatic Motor Activation by Mere Instruction

Article excerpt

Published online: 20 May 2014

(Q> Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Previous behavioral studies have shown that in- structions about stimulus-response (S-R) mappings can influ- ence task performance even when these instructions are irrel- evant for the current task. In the present study, we tested whether automatic effects of S-R instructions occur because the instructed stimuli automatically activate their correspond- ing responses. We registered the lateralized readiness poten- tials (LRPs) that were evoked by the instructed stimuli while participants were performing a task for which those mappings were irrelevant. Instructed S-R mappings clearly affected task performance in electrophysiological and behavioral measures. The LRP was found to deflect in the direction of the response tendency that corresponded with the instructed S-R mapping. Early activation of the instructed response was observed but occurred predominantly on slow trials. In contrast, response conflict evoked by instructed S-R mappings did not modulate the N2 amplitude. The results strongly suggest that, like experienced S-R mappings, instructed S-R mappings can lead to automatic response activation, but possibly via a different route.

Keywords Learning * Instruction * Erp * Cognitive control * Working memory

Learning through instructions is a unique human ability that offers a quick route to changes in behavior without the neces- sity of actual practice. It appears to be based on the imple- mentation of verbal instructions into procedural representa- tions that control responding (e.g., Cohen-Kdoshay & Meiran, 2007; Liefooghe, Wenke, & De Houwer, 2012; Meiran, Cole, & Braver, 2012; Wenke, Gaschler, & Nattkemper, 2007). Such a view is supported by research demonstrating that merely instructed stimulus-response (S-R) mappings, which have never been applied before, can bias responding when being irrelevant. For instance, Liefooghe et al. (2012; see also Liefooghe, De Houwer, & Wenke, 2013) used a procedure in which participants are presented with runs of trials consisting of two tasks: the inducer task and the diagnostic task (Fig. 1). Each run starts with the presentation of a novel pair of S-R mappings of the inducer task that indicates how to respond to the identity of a probe stimulus that would be presented later on (e.g., if the probe stimulus is the nonword "ady," press left). Between the presentation of the S-R mappings and the onset of the probe, several trials of the diagnostic task are presented. Both tasks share stimuli and responses, but in the diagnostic task, participants respond to the orientation rather than the identity of the stimuli (e.g., if upright, press left; if italic, press right). Liefooghe et al. (2012) observed that RTs in the diag- nostic task were shorter when the required response in the diagnostic task corresponded to the S-R mappings of the inducer task (i.e., a congruent trial such as "ady" presented upright, requiring a left keypress), than when it did not (i.e., an incongruent trials such as "ady" presented in italics, requiring a right keypress). A congruency effect was thus observed that was based only on the instructions of the inducer task. This effect is referred to as the instruction-based task-rule congru- ency effect (IB-TRCE).

The IB-TRCE and related effects, such as the instruction- based feature-binding effect (Wenke et al., 2007; Wenke, Gaschler, Nattkemper, & Frensch, 2009), the instruction- based Simon effect (De Houwer, Beckers, Vandorpe, & Custers, 2005), or the instruction-based flanker compatibility effect (Cohen-Kdoshay & Meiran, 2007, 2009; Meiran & Cohen-Kdoshay, 2012), are considered as evidence for the hypothesis that instructed S-R mappings can be implemented into functional S-R associations, and this without any prac- tice. Once these S-R associations are established, they can trigger responses even when being irrelevant for the task at hand. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.