Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Competing with Visible and Invisible Competitors in Flanker Tasks

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Competing with Visible and Invisible Competitors in Flanker Tasks

Article excerpt

In a break from the tradition of investigating human cognition in isolated individuals, there is an increasing tendency in cognitive science to consider social influences on cognitive processes, especially in situations in which people jointly perform the same task (Knoblich, Butterfill, & Sebanz, 2011). A typical Simon effect refers to the interference that people experience when there is a stimulus-response (S-R) conflict in a spatial compatibility and incompatibility task (Liu, Banich, Jacobson, & Tanabe, 2004). Although the stimulus location is entirely task-irrelevant, stimuli more or less automatically activate spatially corresponding responses, which speeds up reaction times in trials with spatial S-R correspondence, and slows down reaction times in trials with noncorrespondence (Dolk, Hommel, Prinz, & Liepelt, 2014).

Unlike the Simon task that involves stimulus spatial location, the flanker task (Eriksen & Eriksen, 1974) is an optimal experimental paradigm in cognitive psychology. In the flanker task, target categorization response times are affected by the combination of flankers and target (Schmitz, Wentura, & Brinkmann, 2014). In the Eriksen flanker task (Eriksen & Eriksen, 1974), for example, a target stimulus is centrally positioned with interference stimuli (flankers) on either side, and participants are required to respond to the target without being distracted by the flankers. In congruent trials, the flankers correspond to the same response as the target, whereas in incongruent trials the flankers correspond to the opposite response, resulting in interference for participants. Only when participants are aware of instructed S-R mappings, can the flankers stimulate a response. The flanker task is, thus, optimally suited for investigating whether or not coactors take into account each other's task rules (Atmaca, Sebanz, & Knoblich, 2011).

The Simon effect is widely described as a response selection phenomenon caused by the automatic activation of a response that spatially corresponds to a stimulus location (Ferraro, Iani, Mariani, Milanese, & Rubichi, 2011). The joint Simon task (Sebanz, Knoblich, & Prinz, 2003) is used to measure whether or not individuals integrate coactors' actions into their own action system. Atmaca et al. (2011) demonstrated that, in a joint flanker task, actors incorporated the actions of coactors into their own action system in collaborative conditions. We were interested that other researchers (Iani, Anelli, Nicoletti, Arcuri, & Rubichi, 2011; Ruys & Aarts, 2010) have also shown that shared action representations may occur in competitive conditions. Some researchers have departed from an interdependency perspective to predict the activation of shared action representations even in hostile competitive situations as a result of attending to the intentions of the coactor (Ruys & Aarts, 2010). We consider that the crucial question is whether or not a shared action will be carried out when people are convinced that they are performing the task with a competitor.

When individuals are engaged in joint action, they must integrate their partner's actions with their own (Meyer, Hunnius, van Elk, van Ede, & Bekkering, 2011). Thus, we hypothesized that activation of shared action representations would occur when actors take into consideration their coactor's intentions. This is more likely to happen when actor and coactor are interdependent. Therefore, we predicted that individuals would integrate the actions of others into their action system not only in friendly, cooperative situations, but also in a more hostile, competitive context, in which actors often dislike the other actor (Ruys & Aarts, 2010).

However, in real life, competitors are not always physically present in competitions, such as those held online. Thus, we conducted two studies to examine whether or not the joint flanker effect would still occur in an online context. …

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