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Journal ArticleDOI

Congruency effects on the basis of instructed response-effect contingencies

01 Jun 2015-Acta Psychologica (North-Holland)-Vol. 158, pp 43-50

TL;DR: The results indicate that instruction-based congruency effects are not restricted to instructed S-R mappings and suggest that the representations that mediate these effects do not specify the nature of the relation between response and effect even though this relation was explicitly specified by the instructions.

AbstractPrevious research indicated that stimulus-response congruency effects can be obtained in one task (the diagnostic task) on the basis of the instructed stimulus-response mappings of another task (the inducer task) and this without having executed the instructions of the inducer task once. A common interpretation of such finding is that instructed stimulus-response mappings are implemented into functional associations, which automatically trigger responses when being irrelevant and this without any practice. The present study investigated whether instruction-based congruency effects are also observed for a different type of instructions than instructed S-R mappings, namely instructed response-effect contingencies. In three experiments, instruction-based congruency effects were observed in the diagnostic task when the instructions of the inducer task specified response-effect contingencies. On the one hand, our results indicate that instruction-based congruency effects are not restricted to instructed S-R mappings. On the other hand, our results suggest that the representations that mediate these effects do not specify the nature of the relation between response and effect even though this relation was explicitly specified by the instructions.

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • Previous research indicated that stimulus-response congruency effects can be obtained in one task (the diagnostic task) on the basis of the instructed stimulus-response mappings of another task (the inducer task) and this without having executed the instructions of the inducer task once.
  • The present study offers a more stringent test of the question whether instruction-based congruency effects can be obtained on the basis of instructed R-E contingencies.
  • On congruent diagnostic trials, the stimulus and the correct response were part of the same R-E contingency in the inducer task.

Materials

  • Experiment 1 consisted of different runs each containing two tasks : the inducer task and the diagnostic task.
  • This ‘grid’ contained the two effect stimuli instructed at the beginning of that run.
  • In the diagnostic task participants judged whether a stimulus was printed upright or in italic by pressing the left or right key.
  • Each block consisted of two runs of each run-length.
  • Half of the trials in the diagnostic task required a response that was in line with the R-E contingencies of the inducer task (i.e., congruent trials).

Procedure

  • Participants were tested individually by means of personal computers with a 17-inch color monitor running Tscope (Stevens, Lammertyn, Verbruggen, & Vandierendonck, 2006).
  • Instructions were presented on the screen and paraphrased by the experimenter if necessary.
  • These contingencies remained on screen until the participant pressed the spacebar or a maximum time of 20 seconds elapsed.
  • The first trial of the diagnostic task started 750 ms after the removal of the R-E contingencies.
  • When participants pressed one of the two keys, the corresponding effect stimulus was removed from the grid.

Results

  • The data of three participants who made more than 58% of errors in the inducer task were excluded from further analysis.
  • For the RT analysis, the same exclusion criteria were used as in the previous experiments (data loss errors: 8.6% of all trials; data loss RTs longer than 2.5 SDs from a participant’s mean cell RT: 2.7% of the total amount of correct trials).
  • The RTs were measured from the onset of the Yes/No screen.

Discussion

  • In Experiment 3, the inducer task was adapted in such a way that reinterpreting the instructed R-E contingencies as S-R mappings was completely redundant in order to perform the inducer task.
  • An instruction-based congruency effect was observed in the diagnostic task, corroborating the results of the previous experiments.
  • Both in terms of response speed and accuracy, performance was superior on congruent diagnostic trials compared to incongruent diagnostic trials.
  • This result confirms the conclusion that instruction-based congruency effects can be obtained on the basis of instructed and actively prepared R-E contingencies.

Method

  • Twenty-six right-handed students at Ghent University participated for payment of 5 Euros.
  • The inducer task was changed in several ways.
  • When both the left/right response to the target word and the yes/no response were correct, participants received one point.
  • On the top of the screen the point earned or lost during that run was displayed.
  • The number of runs and trials during these blocks were identical to Experiment 1 and 2.

General Discussion

  • The present study investigated whether instruction-based congruency effects could be obtained on the basis of instructed R-E contingencies.
  • The present findings thus indicate that instruction-based congruency effects can be possibly observed on the basis of different types of instructions.
  • An important difference between the present study and previous research on R-E contingencies is that the R-E contingencies of the inducer task are explicitly instructed.

Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 1067–1082.

  • Action control according to TEC (theory of event coding).
  • In: Relationships between perception and action: Current approaches, ed. O. Neumann & W. Prinz.
  • The task rule congruency effect in task switching reflects activated long term memory.

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Instruction-Based Response-Effect Congruency 1
Congruency effects on the basis of instructed response-effect contingencies
Marijke Theeuwes
1
Jan De Houwer
1
Andreas Eder
2
Baptist Liefooghe
1
1
Ghent University
2
University of Würzburg
Author Note:
This research was supported by grant BOF09/01M00209 of Ghent University to Jan De Houwer.
Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Marijke Theeuwes, Department of
Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent
(Belgium), Email: marijke.theeuwes@ugent.be, Phone: +32-(0)9-264.86.14.

Instruction-Based Response-Effect Congruency 2
Abstract
Previous research indicated that stimulus-response congruency effects can be obtained in
one task (the diagnostic task) on the basis of the instructed stimulus-response mappings of another
task (the inducer task) and this without having executed the instructions of the inducer task once. A
common interpretation of such finding is that instructed stimulus-response mappings are
implemented into functional associations, which automatically trigger responses when being
irrelevant and this without any practice. The present study investigated whether instruction-based
congruency effects are also observed for a different type of instructions than instructed S-R
mappings, namely instructed response-effect contingencies. In three experiments, instruction-based
congruency effects were observed in the diagnostic task when the instructions of the inducer task
specified response-effect contingencies. On the one hand, our results indicate that instruction-based
congruency effects are not restricted to instructed S-R mappings. On the other hand, our results
suggest that the representations that mediate these effects do not specify the nature of the relation
between response and effect even though this relation was explicitly specified by the instructions.

Instruction-Based Response-Effect Congruency 3
Congruency effects on the basis of instructed response-effect contingencies
Although instructions play a vital role in our daily life functioning, little is known about how
instructions actually influence behavior. On the one hand, instructions can specify particular
response strategies that participants could adopt when performing a particular task. Research in this
context has demonstrated, for instance, that instructions specifying the intention to respond
particularly fast on certain stimuli could result in the attenuation of automatic interference effects
(e.g. Cohen, Bayer, Jaudas, & Gollwitzer, 2008; Miles & Proctor, 2008). On the other hand,
instructions can also specify the stimulus-response (S-R) mappings of a task (for a review, see Meiran,
Cole, & Braver, 2012). A substantial amount of research focusing on this type of instructions
observed that instructed S-R mappings, which have never been executed before, can automatically
bias performance when being irrelevant (e.g., Cohen-Kdoshay & Meiran, 2007, 2009; De Houwer,
Beckers, Vandrope & Custers, 2005; Eder, 2011; Everaert, Theeuwes, Liefooghe, & De Houwer, 2014;
Liefooghe, De Houwer and Wenke, 2013; Liefooghe, Wenke, & De Houwer, 2012; Meiran & Cohen-
Kdoshay, 2012; Theeuwes, Liefooghe, & De Houwer, in press; Wenke, Gaschler,& Nattkemper, 2007;
Wenke, Gaschler, Nattkemper, & Frensch, 2009; Meiran, Pereg, Kessler, Cole, &Braver, in press;
Wenke, De Houwer, De Winne & Liefooghe, in press).
An example of a procedure that has been used for investigating an automatic influence of
instructed S-R mappings is provided by Liefooghe et al. (2012). These authors presented participants
with different runs of trials on which two tasks had to be performed which shared stimuli and
responses: the inducer and the diagnostic task. At the start of each run participants received two
novel arbitrary S-R mappings of the inducer task, each assigning a stimulus either to a left or a right
response based on the identity of the stimulus (e.g., If ‘X’, press left; if ‘Y’, press right). Before
executing the inducer task, several trials of the diagnostic task were performed, on which
participants decided whether a stimulus was presented in italic or upright, again by pressing a left or
right response key (e.g., upright, press left; italic, press right). After a number of trials of the
diagnostic task, a probe stimulus of the inducer task was presented. Liefooghe et al. (2012) observed

Instruction-Based Response-Effect Congruency 4
that performance in the diagnostic task, in terms of speed and sometimes in terms of accuracy, was
better on responses that matched with the instructions of the inducer task (e.g., ‘X’ presented
upright or Ypresented in italic) than on responses that did not match with the S-R mappings of the
inducer task (e.g., ‘Y’ presented upright or Xpresented in italic). Given that (1) the diagnostic task
was performed immediately after the presentation of the instructions of the inducer task, thus prior
to the application of these instructions and (2) the inducer task comprised novel S-R mappings on
each run, the conclusion was drawn that the congruency effect observed in the diagnostic task was
based on the instructed S-R mappings of the inducer task, which were never executed overtly before.
Liefooghe et al. (2012, see also Meiran et al., 2012; Wenke et al., 2007) suggested that instruction-
based congruency effects indicate that instructed S-R mappings are transformed into procedural
associations during task preparation, which automatically trigger response activations when being
irrelevant (see, Everaert et al. 2014; Meiran, Pereg, Kessler, Cole & Braver, in press).
Although instruction-based congruency effects have been observed many times in recent
years, studies indicated that these effects are subject to several boundary conditions. For instance,
instruction-based congruency effects disappear when working memory is taxed too heavily (Cohen-
Kdoshay & Meiran, 2007, 2009; Meiran & Cohen-Kdoshay, 2012) and they are only observed when
participants intend to apply the instructed S-R mappings (Liefooghe et al., 2012) and actively prepare
themselves on the basis of these instructed S-R mappings (Liefooghe et al., 2013; Wenke et al.,
2009). Although there is a steady increase in our insights about instruction-based congruency effects,
research has focused exclusively on one specific type of instructed relationships, namely S-R
mappings. Accordingly, the question arises whether similar effects can be observed on the basis of
different types of instructions. The present study aims to make a first step in this direction by
investigating to which extent instruction-based congruency effects can be obtained on the basis of
instructions specifying the contingency between a particular response and the effect it elicits in the
environment (i.e. Response-Effect or R-E contingencies).

Instruction-Based Response-Effect Congruency 5
Research on action-effect learning has provided strong evidence that congruency effects
can be obtained on the basis of previously learned R-E contingencies (for a review see Shin, Proctor &
Capaldi, 2010). For instance, Hommel (1996; Experiment 2) first subjected participants to a training
phase in which pressing a response key once or twice resulted in the presentation of a left-sided tone
or a right-sided tone, respectively. In a subsequent test phase, participants had to respond to the
identity of a visual stimulus by pressing the response key once or twice. The left-right stimulus
position varied randomly and was irrelevant. Hommel (1996; Experiment 2) observed faster
responses when the visual stimulus position (e.g., left) matched with the auditory tone position (e.g.
left) that was associated with the response required to the identity of the visual stimulus (e.g., a
single key press). Grosjean and Mordkoff (2002) demonstrated that the Simon effect (Simon &
Rudell, 1967), a congruency effect between the irrelevant left-right stimulus location and the left-
right response location, could be modulated by presenting left-right post-response stimuli, which
could either correspond to the response location or not. The Simon effect increased when congruent
post-response stimuli were presented and decreased when incongruent post-response stimuli were
presented.
Research on action effects is particularly relevant for research on cognitive control as it
challenges strict forward models of information processing (e.g., Massaro 1990; Sanders 1980;
Sternberg 1969; see Hommel,
Müsseler, Aschersleben & Prinz, 2001 for an in depth discussion) by
emphasizing the importance of the consequences or expected consequences of a particular action in
the environment. Action effects are at the core of influential theories on cognitive control, such as
the common coding theory (Prinz, 1990) and the theory of event coding (Hommel, 2009), which
elaborate on the ideomotor principle (Herbart, 1825; Lotze, 1852). The ideomotor principle states
that actions are activated on the basis of a representation of the effects these actions evoke in the
environment. Experiencing an effect that is contingent upon the execution of an action leads to the
formation of a bidirectional association between an action and the perceived effect. Based on this R-
E association, the activation of the effect automatically leads to the activation of the associated

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Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What are the contributions in this paper?

The present study investigated whether instruction-based congruency effects are also observed for a different type of instructions than instructed S-R mappings, namely instructed response-effect contingencies. The present study aims to make a first step in this direction by investigating to which extent instruction-based congruency effects can be obtained on the basis of instructions specifying the contingency between a particular response and the effect it elicits in the environment ( i. e. Response-Effect or R-E contingencies ). Of interest for the present purpose is a study of Hommel, Alfonso, and Fuentes ( 2003 ), which observed that action effects can generalize over words sharing semantic features. The present study offers a more stringent test of the question whether instruction-based congruency effects can be obtained on the basis of instructed R-E contingencies. On the other hand, their results suggest that the representations that mediate these effects do not specify the nature of the relation between response and effect even though this relation was explicitly specified by the instructions. Liefooghe et al. ( 2012, see also Meiran et al., 2012 ; Wenke et al., 2007 ) suggested that instructionbased congruency effects indicate that instructed S-R mappings are transformed into procedural associations during task preparation, which automatically trigger response activations when being irrelevant ( see, Everaert et al. This finding suggests that a congruency effect based on R-E contingencies can be obtained with stimuli that never co-occurred with a particular response in the acquisition phase, but that resemble stimuli that were part of a previously learned R-E contingency. Based on the proposal of Hommel ( 2009 ), the observation of an instructionInstruction-Based Response-Effect Congruency 7 based congruency effect on the basis of instructed R-E contingencies may suggest that while the associations formed on the basis of instructions do include stimulus and response codes, they do not include a qualification of the particular relation between these codes ( i. e., a particular effect is contingent upon a particular response ), even though such relation is explicitly specified by the instructions. 

It becomes clear that future research on instruction implementation, will also need to focus on the communalities and differences between the types of instructions that are implemented. Further evidence for the role of mode-independent short-term associations in spatial Simon effects.