Proportion congruency effects: Instructions may be enough

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Abstract

Learning takes time, namely, one needs to be exposed to contingency relations between stimulus dimensions in order to learn, whereas intentional control can be recruited through task demands. Therefore showing that control can be recruited as a function of experimental instructions alone, that is, adapting the processing according to the instructions before the exposure to the task, can be taken as evidence for existence of control recruitment in the absence of learning. This was done by manipulating the information given at the outset of the experiment. In the first experiment, we manipulated list-level congruency proportion. Half of the participants were informed that most of the stimuli would be congruent, whereas the other half were informed that most of the stimuli would be incongruent. This held true for the stimuli in the second part of each experiment. In the first part, however, the proportion of the two stimulus types was equal. A proportion congruent effect was found in both parts of the experiment, but it was larger in the second part. In our second experiment, we manipulated the proportion of the stimuli within participants by applying an item specific design. This was done by presenting some color words most often in their congruent color, and other color words in incongruent colors. Participants were informed about the exact word-color pairings in advance. Similar to Experiment 1, this held true only for the second experimental part. In contrast to our first experiment, informing participants in advance did not result in an item-specific proportion effect, which was observed only in the second part. Thus our results support the hypothesis that instructions may be enough to trigger list-level control, yet learning does contribute to the proportion congruent effect under such conditions. The item-level proportion effect is apparently caused by learning or at least it is moderated by it.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 1108
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume5
Issue numberSEP
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Conflict adaptation
  • Control
  • Item-specific congruency
  • Learning
  • Proportion congruent
  • Stroop

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