Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Action Plans Can Interact to Hinder or Facilitate Reach Performance

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Action Plans Can Interact to Hinder or Facilitate Reach Performance

Article excerpt

Published online: 11 July 2015

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2015

Abstract Executing a reach action can be delayed while retaining another action in working memory (WM) if the two action plans partly overlap rather than do not overlap. This delay (partial repetition cost) occurs when reach responses are under cognitive control. In this study, we investigated whether facilitation (a partial repetition benefit) occurs when reach responses are automatic. We also examined whether the hemisphere controlling the limb or selection of the preferred limb (based on a free-reach task) influences reach performance when the actions partly overlap. Left-and right-handers reached to different stimulus locations to the left and right of body midline with their ipsilateral hand while maintaining an action plan in WM that required the same or the different hand. The results showed a partial repetition benefit for spatially compatible reaches to left and right stimulus locations far from the body midline, but not for those near the body midline. Also, no partial repetition cost was found at any of the stimulus-reach locations. This indicates that automatic reach responses that partly overlap with an action plan maintained in WM are not delayed, but instead can be facilitated (partial repetition benefit). The roles of hemisphere and reach-hand preference in action control and the importance of the degree of feature overlap in obtaining a partial repetition benefit (and cost) are discussed.

Keywords Cognitive control . Automaticity . Goal-directed movements . Perception and action

Goal-directed actions, such as operating a computer and cooking a meal, require action planning. We must decide what to do and when to do it (Keele, 1968;Lashley,1951;Miller, Galanter, & Pribram, 1960). Sometimes we suspend the execution of one action plan to execute another. For example, one may plan to remove a pan of chicken close to burning from the stove top, but reaching to an object about to fall out of the cupboard onto one's head takes precedence. Wiediger and Fournier (2008) showed that executing a reach action can be delayed while retaining another action in working memory (WM) if the two action plans partly overlap (e.g., both actions require the left hand) versus do not overlap (e.g., the actions require different hands). These delays occurred when reach responses were under cognitive control (Passingham & Toni, 2001). It is unclear, however, whether reach actions under automatic control (Logan, 1988) would be facilitated, instead of delayed. In the present study, we addressed this question. We also examined whether the hemisphere controlling the limb (Gonzalez, Ganel, & Goodale, 2006) or selection of the preferred limb (Stins, Kadar, & Costall, 2001) influences reach performance when the actions partly overlap. Understanding when action plans interact to hinder or facilitate reach responses will allow us to better predict performance and better understand how action plans are represented.

Actions directed toward a goal are defined as controlled (Logan, 1988; Logan & Crump, 2011;Milleretal.,1960). For example, the act of typing by either skilled or unskilled typists is controlled, because the typist chooses to do it; it does not occur by accident (Logan & Crump, 2011). Actions under cognitive control are accessed by a time-consuming process of applying a general algorithm or rule(s) held in WM (indirect route). In contrast, actions under automatic control are rapidly and directly accessed as stored solutions in long-term memory and can be specified directly and unconditionally by a stimulus (direct route; Barber & O'Leary, 1997; de Jong, Liang, & Lauber, 1994; Eimer, Hommel, & Prinz, 1995;Greenwald, 2003;Greenwald&Shulman,1973; Kornblum, Hasbroucq, &Osman,1990; Newell & Rosenbloom, 1981;Stürmer, Leuthold, Soetens, Schröter, & Sommer, 2002; Tagliabue, Zorzi, Umiltà, & Bassignani, 2000;Umiltà&Zorzi,1997). …

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