Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibition and Decay of Motor and Nonmotor Priming

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibition and Decay of Motor and Nonmotor Priming

Article excerpt

Motor responses can be facilitated by congruent visual stimuli and prolonged by incongruent visual stimuli that are made invisible by masking (direct motor priming). Recent studies on direct motor priming showed a reversal of these priming effects when a three-stimulus paradigm was used in which a prime was followed by a mask and a target stimulus was presented after a delay. A similar three-stimulus paradigm on nonmotor priming, however, showed no reversal of priming effects when the mask was used as a cue for processing of the following target stimulus (cue priming). Experiment 1 showed that the time interval between mask and target is crucial for the reversal of priming. Therefore, the time interval between mask and target was varied in three experiments to see whether cue priming is also subject to inhibition at a certain time interval. Cues indicated (1) the stimulus modality of the target stimulus, (2) the task to be performed on a multidimensional auditory stimulus, or (3) part of the motor response. Whereas direct motor priming showed the reversal of priming about 100 msec after mask presentation, cue priming effects simply decayed during the 300 msec after mask presentation. These findings provide boundary conditions for accounts of inverse priming effects.

An increasing number of recent studies have shown behavioral and psychophysiological effects of visual stimuli that are made invisible by masking (Abrams & Greenwald, 2000; Dehaene et al., 1998; Eimer, 1999; Eimer & Schlaghecken, 1998; Greenwald, Draine, & Abrams, 1996; Klinger, Burton, & Pitts, 2000; Klotz & Neumann, 1999; Leuthold & Kopp, 1998; Mattler, 2003; Naccache & Dehaene, 2001a, 2001b; Neumann & Klotz, 1994; Schmidt, 2000, 2002; Vorberg, Mattler, Heinecke, Schmidt, & Schwarzbach, 2003; Wentura, 2000; Wolff, 1989). One of the first studies was conducted by Fehrer and Raab (1962), who presented a square that was followed by two flanking squares after varying stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). When participants were to respond as soon as a stimulus appeared, simple reaction time (RT) was virtually independent of SOA, although verbal reports of stimulus visibility changed with SOA (see Neumann & Klotz, 1994).

This dissociation was confirmed and extended by recent work that also employed metacontrast masking to manipulate stimulus visibility. In metacontrast masking, the visibility of a briefly flashed prime stimulus is reduced by a following spatially flanking masking stimulus (Breitmeyer, 1984). Wolff (1989) and Neumann and Klotz (1994) found that choice RTs to the mask are shortened or prolonged if primes share stimulus attributes with masks that are critical for the correct or the alternalive response, respectively (see Klotz & Neumann, 1999). Electrophysiological evidence from event-related potentials measured over the motor cortex suggests that primes can activate specific responses at the motor cortex (Dehaene et al., 1998; Eimer, 1999; Eimer & Schlaghecken, 1998; Leuthold & Kopp, 1998).

A simple change of the direct motor priming paradigm leads to a surprising change of priming effects. Eimer and Schlaghecken (1998) used a three-stimulus paradigm in which the mask and the target are separate stimuli and found faster responses on incongruent than on congruent trials (Eimer, 1999; Eimer & Schlaghecken, 1998; Klapp & Hinkley, 2002; Schlaghecken & Eimer, 2000, 2002; Vorberg, 1998). However, not every threestimulus paradigm leads to a reversal of priming effects. Mattler (2003) used a three-stimulus paradigm to study cue priming effects. In these experiments, the prime was also followed by a mask that was followed by a target stimulus. Participants had to use the mask as a cue for the processing of the following target. In this way, the mask cued the modality of a target stimulus (visual vs. auditory), the cognitive task to be performed on a target stimulus (pitch discrimination vs. …

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