To examine age-related effects on high-level consciously controlled and low-level automatically controlled inhibitory processes, the Simon task was combined with the masked prime task in a hybrid procedure. Young and older adults responded to the identity of targets (left/right key-press to left-/right-pointing arrows) that appeared on the left/right of the screen and were preceded by left-/right-pointing backward-masked arrow primes at fixation. Responses were faster and more accurate when the target was congruent with its location than incongruent (Simon effect), and when the target was incompatible with the prime than compatible (negative compatibility effect; NCE). The Simon effect was disproportionately larger, and the NCE disproportionately delayed, in older adults compared to young adults, indicating both high- and low-level inhibitory control deficits with aging. Moreover, the two effects were additive in young adults, but interactive in older adults, providing support for the dedifferentiation hypothesis of aging. Specifically, older adults’ prime-related inhibitory control appeared improved on incongruent relative to congruent trials, suggesting that impaired automatic control was substituted by high-level, non-automatic processes.
aging; inhibition; cognitive control; masked priming; negative compatibility effect; Simon effect; dedifferentiation
In two experiments, we compared level of activation and temporal overlap accounts of compatibility effects in the Simon task by reducing the discriminability of spatial and non-spatial features of a target location word. Participants made keypress responses to the non-spatial or spatial feature of centrally-presented location words. The discriminability of the spatial feature of the word (Experiment 1), or of both the spatial and non-spatial feature (Experiment 2), was manipulated. When the spatial feature of the word was task-irrelevant, lowering the discriminability of this feature reduced the compatibility effect. The compatibility effect was restored when the discriminability of both the task-relevant and task-irrelevant features were reduced together. Results provide further evidence for the temporal overlap account of compatibility effects. Furthermore, compatibility effects when the spatial information was task-relevant and those when the spatial information was task-irrelevant were moderately correlated with each other, suggesting a common underlying mechanism in both versions.
Simon effect; stimulus-response compatibility; temporal overlap; automatic activation
Previous investigations of adult age differences in visual search suggest that an age-related decline may exist in attentional processes dependent on the observer's knowledge of task-relevant features (top–down processing). The present experiments were conducted to examine age-related changes in top–down attentional guidance during a highly efficient form of search, singleton detection. In Experiment 1 reaction times to detect targets were lower when target features were constant (feature condition) than when target features were allowed to vary between trials (mixed condition), and this reaction time benefit was similar for younger and older adults. Experiments 2 and 3 investigated possible interactions between top–down and bottom–up (stimulus-driven) processes. Experiment 2 demonstrated that search times for both age groups could be improved when targets varied on an additional feature from distractors (double-feature condition) but only when top–down control was available (feature search). In Experiment 3, the availability of top–down guidance enabled both younger and older adults to override the distracting effects of a noninformative spatial location cue. These findings indicate that top–down attentional control mechanisms interact with bottom–up processes to guide search for targets, and that in the context of singleton detection these mechanisms of top–down control are preserved for older adults.
The role of body orientation in the orienting and allocation of social attention was examined using an adapted Simon paradigm. Participants categorized the facial expression of forward facing, computer-generated human figures by pressing one of two response keys, each located left or right of the observers' body midline, while the orientation of the stimulus figure's body (trunk, arms, and legs), which was the task-irrelevant feature of interest, was manipulated (oriented toward the left or right visual hemifield) with respect to the spatial location of the required response. We found that when the orientation of the body was compatible with the required response location, responses were slower relative to when body orientation was incompatible with the response location. In line with a model put forward by Hietanen (1999), this reverse compatibility effect suggests that body orientation is automatically processed into a directional spatial code, but that this code is based on an integration of head and body orientation within an allocentric-based frame of reference. Moreover, we argue that this code may be derived from the motion information implied in the image of a figure when head and body orientation are incongruent. Our results have implications for understanding the nature of the information that affects the allocation of attention for social orienting.
social attention; spatial attention; Simon task; head-body orientation; implied motion
Responses are faster when the side of stimulus and response correspond than when they do not correspond, even if stimulus location is irrelevant to the task at hand: the correspondence, spatial compatibility effect, or Simon effect. Generally, it is assumed that an automatically generated spatial code is responsible for this effect, but the precise mechanism underlying the formation of this code is still under dispute. Two major alternatives have been proposed: the referential-coding account, which can be subdivided into a static version and an attention-centered version, and the attention-shift account. These accounts hold clear-cut predictions for attentional cuing experiments. The former would assume a Simon effect irrespective of attentional cuing in its static version, whereas the attention-centered version of the referential-coding account and the attention-shift account would predict a decreased Simon effect on validly as opposed to invalidly cued trials. However, results from previous studies are equivocal to the effects of attentional cuing on the Simon effect. We argue here that attentional cueing reliably modulates the Simon effect if some crucial experimental conditions, mostly relevant for optimizing attentional allocation, are met. Furthermore, we propose that the Simon effect may be better understood within the perspective of supra-modal spatial attention, thereby providing an explanation for observed discrepancies in the literature.
Emotion processing has been shown to acquire priority by biasing allocation of attentional resources. Aversive images or fearful expressions are processed quickly and automatically. Many existing findings suggested that processing of emotional information was pre-attentive, largely immune from attentional control. Other studies argued that attention gated the processing of emotion. To tackle this controversy, the current study examined whether and to what degrees attention modulated processing of emotion using a stimulus-response-compatibility (SRC) paradigm. We conducted two flanker experiments using color scale faces in neutral expressions or gray scale faces in emotional expressions. We found SRC effects for all three dimensions (color, gender, and emotion) and SRC effects were larger when the conflicts were task relevant than when they were task irrelevant, suggesting that conflict processing of emotion was modulated by attention, similar to those of color and face identity (gender). However, task modulation on color SRC effect was significantly greater than that on gender or emotion SRC effect, indicating that processing of salient information was modulated by attention to a lesser degree than processing of non-emotional stimuli. We proposed that emotion processing can be influenced by attentional control, but at the same time salience of emotional information may bias toward bottom-up processing, rendering less top-down modulation than that on non-emotional stimuli.
In the field of cognitive control, dimensional overlap and pathway automaticity are generally believed to be critical for the generation of congruency effects. However, their specific roles in the generation of congruency effects are unclear. In two experiments, with the 4∶2 mapping design, we investigated this issue by examining the training-related effects on congruency effects (the Stroop interference effect and the Flanker interference effect in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively) normally expressed as incongruent minus congruent difference and on their subcomponents (the stimulus interference and response interference). Experiment 1 revealed that the stimulus interference in the Stroop task, wherein the task-relevant (printed color of word) and the task-irrelevant (semantics of word) dimensions of the stimuli were processed in different pathways, was present during early training but was virtually eliminated at the late stage of training. This indicates that the two dimensions overlap at the early stage but separate at the late stage. In contrast, Experiment 2 showed that the response interference in a variant of the Flanker task, wherein the task-relevant (central color word printed in black font) and the task-irrelevant (flanking color words printed in black font) dimensions of the stimuli were processed in the same pathway, was enhanced after training. This indicates that the enhanced automaticity of irrelevant-dimension processing induces stronger response competition, which therefore results in the larger response interference. Taken together, the present study demonstrates that (1) dimensional overlap is necessary for the generation of congruency effects, (2) pathway automaticity can affect the size of congruency effects, and (3) training enhances the degree of automatic processing in a given pathway.
Temporal cues guide attentional resources toward relevant points in time, resulting in optimized behavioral performance. Although deficits in aspects of attention have been documented in older adults, it remains unknown whether the critical ability to orient attention in time is affected by normal aging. To address this, younger and older adults participated in a temporally cued target-response experiment while electroencephalographic (EEG) data were recorded. Three conditions (one detection and two discrimination tasks) were used to manipulate task complexity. Response times show that younger adults, but not older adults, utilized temporal cues to enhance performance regardless of task complexity. Similarly, alpha band activity (8-12 Hz) and the contingent negative variation (CNV) preceding targets indicated that only younger adults engaged pre-stimulus, anticipatory neural mechanisms associated with temporal cues. Overall, these results provide novel evidence that older adults do not utilize temporal cues to orient attention in time and support an expectation deficit in normal aging.
aging; alpha band; CNV; expectation; temporal attention
Automatic processing of irrelevant stimulus dimensions has been demonstrated in a variety of tasks. Previous studies have shown that conflict between relevant and irrelevant dimensions can be reduced when a feature of the irrelevant dimension is repeated. The specific level at which the automatic process is suppressed (e.g., perceptual repetition, response repetition), however, is less understood. In the current experiment we used the numerical Stroop paradigm, in which the processing of irrelevant numerical values of 2 digits interferes with the processing of their physical size, to pinpoint the precise level of the suppression. Using a sequential analysis, we dissociated perceptual repetition from response repetition of the relevant and irrelevant dimension. Our analyses of reaction times, error rates, and diffusion modeling revealed that the congruity effect is significantly reduced or even absent when the response sequence of the irrelevant dimension, rather than the numerical value or the physical size, is repeated. These results suggest that automatic activation of the irrelevant dimension is suppressed at the response level. The current results shed light on the level of interaction between numerical magnitude and physical size as well as the effect of variability of responses and stimuli on automatic processing.
automaticity; congruity effect; diffusion modeling; executive control; inhibition
The authors examined the effects of response types and the presentation of auditory stimulus on motor inhibition. Continuous responding tasks were conducted with 27 younger adults and 39 older adults. The results indicated the following: (a) response type significantly affected error rates in older adults, (b) the presentation of an auditory stimulus facilitated responses and decreased reaction times in both younger and older adults, (c) the presentation of an auditory stimulus also increased error rates in older adults, and (d) the effect of response type on error rate remained in experiments conducted under different conditions in older adults. This suggests that in older adults, movement and the associated nervous excitation have significant effects on motor inhibition.
aging; inhibitory function; motor control; stimulus response
With the present study we investigated cue-induced preparation in a Simon task and measured electroencephalogram and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in two within-subjects sessions. Cues informed either about the upcoming (1) spatial stimulus-response compatibility (rule cues), or (2) the stimulus location (position cues), or (3) were non-informative. Only rule cues allowed anticipating the upcoming compatibility condition. Position cues allowed anticipation of the upcoming location of the Simon stimulus but not its compatibility condition. Rule cues elicited fastest and most accurate performance for both compatible and incompatible trials. The contingent negative variation (CNV) in the event-related potential (ERP) of the cue-target interval is an index of anticipatory preparation and was magnified after rule cues. The N2 in the post-target ERP as a measure of online action control was reduced in Simon trials after rule cues. Although compatible trials were faster than incompatible trials in all cue conditions only non-informative cues revealed a compatibility effect in additional indicators of Simon task conflict like accuracy and the N2. We thus conclude that rule cues induced anticipatory re-coding of the Simon task that did not involve cognitive conflict anymore. fMRI revealed that rule cues yielded more activation of the left rostral, dorsal, and ventral prefrontal cortex as well as the pre-SMA as compared to POS and NON-cues. Pre-SMA and ventrolateral prefrontal activation after rule cues correlated with the effective use of rule cues in behavioral performance. Position cues induced a smaller CNV effect and exhibited less prefrontal and pre-SMA contributions in fMRI. Our data point to the importance to disentangle different anticipatory adjustments that might also include the prevention of upcoming conflict via task re-coding.
cognitive conflict; cueing; EEG; fMRI; pre-SMA; Simon task; anticipation; cognitive control
We investigated the influence of hand posture in handedness recognition, while varying the spatial correspondence between stimulus and response in a modified Simon task. Drawings of the left and right hands were displayed either in a back or palm view while participants discriminated stimulus handedness by pressing either a left or right key with their hands resting either in a prone or supine posture. As a control, subjects performed a regular Simon task using simple geometric shapes as stimuli. Results showed that when hands were in a prone posture, the spatially corresponding trials (i.e., stimulus and response located on the same side) were faster than the non-corresponding trials (i.e., stimulus and response on opposite sides). In contrast, for the supine posture, there was no difference between corresponding and non-corresponding trials. Control experiments with the regular Simon task showed that the posture of the responding hand had no influence on performance. When the stimulus is the drawing of a hand, however, the posture of the responding hand affects the spatial correspondence effect because response location is coded based on multiple reference points, including the body of the hand.
handedness recognition; Simon effect; hand posture; motor imagery
Salient visual stimuli capture attention and trigger an eye-movement toward its location reflexively, regardless of an observer’s intentions. Here we aim to investigate the effect of aging (1) on the extent to which salient yet task-irrelevant stimuli capture saccades, and (2) on the ability to selectively suppress such oculomotor responses. Young and older adults were asked to direct their eyes to a target appearing in a stimulus array. Analysis of overall performance shows that saccades to the target object were disrupted by the appearance of a task-irrelevant abrupt-onset distractor when the location of this distractor did not coincide with that of the target object. Conditional capture function analyses revealed that, compared to young adults, older adults were more susceptible to oculomotor capture, and exhibited deficient selective suppression of the responses captured by task-irrelevant distractors. These effects were uncorrelated, suggesting two independent sources off age-related decline. Thus, with advancing age, salient visual distractors become more distracting; in part because they trigger reflexive eye-movements more potently; in part because of failing top-down control over such reflexes. The fact that these process-specific age effects remained concealed in overall oculomotor performance analyses emphasizes the utility of looking beyond the surface; indeed, there may be more than meets the eye.
oculomotor capture; inhibitory control; saccades; aging; distributional analysis
The distractibility that older adults experience when listening to speech in challenging conditions has been attributed in part to reduced inhibition of irrelevant information within and across sensory systems. Whereas neuroimaging studies have shown that younger adults readily suppress visual cortex activation when listening to auditory stimuli, it is unclear the extent to which declining inhibition in older adults results in reduced suppression or compensatory engagement of other sensory cortices. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging study examined the effects of age and stimulus intelligibility in a word listening task. Across all participants, auditory cortex was engaged when listening to words. However, increasing age and declining word intelligibility had independent and spatially similar effects: both were associated with increasing engagement of visual cortex. Visual cortex activation was not explained by age-related differences in vascular reactivity but rather auditory and visual cortices were functionally connected across word listening conditions. The nature of this correlation changed with age: younger adults deactivated visual cortex when activating auditory cortex, middle-aged adults showed no relation, and older adults synchronously activated both cortices. These results suggest that age and stimulus integrity are additive modulators of crossmodal suppression and activation.
aging; crossmodal; fMRI; speech perception; vascular reactivity
Our ability to focus attention on task-relevant stimuli and ignore irrelevant distractions is reflected by differential enhancement and suppression of neural activity in sensory cortices. Previous research has shown that older adults exhibit a deficit in suppressing task-irrelevant information, the magnitude of which is associated with a decline in working memory performance. However, it remains unclear if a failure to suppress is a reflection of an inability of older adults to rapidly assess the relevance of information upon stimulus presentation when they are not aware of the relevance beforehand. To address this, we recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) in healthy older participants (aged 60–80 years) while they performed two different versions of a selective face/scene working memory task, both with and without prior knowledge as to when relevant and irrelevant stimuli would appear. Each trial contained two faces and two scenes presented sequentially followed by a nine second delay and a probe stimulus. Participants were given the following instructions: remember faces (ignore scenes), remember scenes (ignore faces), remember the xth and yth stimuli (where x and y could be 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th), or passively view all stimuli. Working memory performance remained consistent regardless of task instructions. Enhanced neural activity was observed at posterior electrodes to attended stimuli, while neural responses that reflected the suppression of irrelevant stimuli was absent for both tasks. The lack of significant suppression at early stages of visual processing was revealed by P1 amplitude and N1 latency modulation indices. These results reveal that prior knowledge of stimulus relevance does not modify early neural processing during stimulus encoding and does not improve working memory performance in older adults. These results suggest that the inability to suppress irrelevant information early in the visual processing stream by older adults is related to mechanisms specific to top-down suppression.
suppression; EEG; aging; working memory; selective attention
Compatibility effects in conflict paradigms are reduced following incompatible trials, and this effect is referred to as conflict adaptation. A perplexing pattern exists, however, with conflict-driven adaptation emerging in several paradigms (e.g., Stroop, Simon) but not consistently in the Eriksen and Eriksen (1974) flanker task. The present experiments address the seemingly elusive presence of conflict adaptation in this task. Experiment 1 shows that a negative-priming-like slowing may be masking conflict adaptation in the flanker task. In Experiment 2, conflict adaptation was revealed when a larger stimulus set designed to reduce negative priming was implemented. Taken together, the findings indicate that a consideration of processes opposing conflict adaptation in the flanker task may help reconcile prior findings.
Older adults’ difficulties in performing two tasks concurrently have been well documented (Kramer & Madden, 2008). It has been observed that the age-related differences in dual-task performance are larger when the two tasks require similar motor responses (Hartley, 2001) and that in some conditions older adults also show greater susceptibility than younger adults to input interference (Hein & Schubert, 2004). The authors recently observed that even when the two tasks require motor responses, both older and younger adults can learn to perform a visual discrimination task and an auditory discrimination task faster and more accurately (Bherer et al., 2005). In the present study, the authors extended this finding to a dual-task condition that involves two visual tasks requiring two motor responses. Older and younger adults completed a dual-task training program in which continuous individualized adaptive feedback was provided to enhance performance. The results indicate that, even with similar motor responses and two visual stimuli, both older and younger adults showed substantial gains in performance after training and that the improvement generalized to new task combinations involving new stimuli. These results suggest that dual-task skills can be substantially improved in older adults and that cognitive plasticity in attentional control is still possible in old age.
Humans are able to continuously monitor environmental situations and adjust their behavioral strategies to optimize performance. Here we investigate the behavioral and brain adjustments that occur when conflicting stimulus elements are, or are not, temporally predictable. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were collected while manual-response variants of the Stroop task were performed in which the stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) between the relevant-color and irrelevant-word stimulus components were either randomly intermixed, or held constant, within each experimental run. Results indicated that the size of both the neural and behavioral effects of stimulus incongruency varied with the temporal arrangement of the stimulus components, such that the random-SOA arrangements produced the greatest incongruency effects at the earliest irrelevant-first SOA (−200 ms) and the constant-SOA arrangements produced the greatest effects with simultaneous presentation. These differences in conflict processing were accompanied by rapid (~150 ms) modulations of the sensory ERPs to the irrelevant distracter components when they occurred consistently first. These effects suggest that individuals are able to strategically allocate attention in time to mitigate the influence of a temporally predictable distracter. As these adjustments are instantiated by the subjects without instruction, they reveal a form of rapid strategic learning for dealing with temporally predictable stimulus incongruency.
Stroop task; conflict processing; event-related potentials (ERPs); incongruency; Stimulus Onset Asynchrony (SOA)
In this study we examined (a) whether verbal self-instructions can enhance task-switching performance in younger and older adults, and (b) whether verbal self-instruction benefits on task switching are smaller when memory demands on keeping track of the task sequence are reduced by spatial task cueing. Task-switching ability was measured as the difference in performance between single-task and mixed-task blocks (termed mixing costs), in which participants switched between two tasks A and B. One group of participants performed the switching tasks with spatial task cues, indicating which of the two tasks has to be performed, thereby reducing demands on the endogenous control of serial task order (low task-sequencing load). The other group switched between tasks without external task cues (high task-sequencing load). To investigate the influence of verbal self-instructions on task switching, participants either named aloud the next task during task preparation (task-naming condition) or they did not verbalize (control condition). Results indicated that age differences in verbalization benefits on mixing costs depend on early learning whereby benefits were generally larger when subjects had some prior practice in task switching alone, and that verbalization benefits did not differ between the two task-sequencing load conditions. These findings suggest that task naming is a suitable cognitive intervention for enhancing the control of task switching in younger and older adults, even if memory load is reduced, and that for the efficient application of this strategy it first has to be coordinated with task switching, which is easier when task switching is already practiced.
aging; task switching; verbalization benefits; working-memory load; task-sequencing function; endogenous task control
Much of what we know regarding the effect of stimulus repetition on neuroelectric adaptation comes from studies using artificially produced pure tones or harmonic complex sounds. Little is known about the neural processes associated with the representation of everyday sounds and how these may be affected by aging. In this study, we used real life, meaningful sounds presented at various azimuth positions and found that auditory evoked responses peaking at about 100 and 180 ms after sound onset decreased in amplitude with stimulus repetition. This neural adaptation was greater in young than in older adults and was more pronounced when the same sound was repeated at the same location. Moreover, the P2 waves showed differential patterns of domain-specific adaptation when location and identity was repeated among young adults. Background noise decreased ERP amplitudes and modulated the magnitude of repetition effects on both the N1 and P2 amplitude, and the effects were comparable in young and older adults. These findings reveal an age-related difference in the neural processes associated with adaptation to meaningful sounds, which may relate to older adults’ difficulty in ignoring task-irrelevant stimuli.
It has been shown that dual-task training leads to significant improvement in dual-task performance in younger and older adults. However, the extent to which training benefits to untrained tasks requires further investigation. The present study assessed (a) whether dual-task training leads to cross-modality transfer in untrained tasks using new stimuli and/or motor responses modalities, (b) whether transfer effects are related to improved ability to prepare and maintain multiple task-set and/or enhanced response coordination, (c) whether there are age-related differences in transfer effects. Twenty-three younger and 23 older adults were randomly assigned to dual-task training or control conditions. All participants were assessed before and after training on three dual-task transfer conditions; (1) stimulus modality transfer (2) response modality transfer (3) stimulus and response modalities transfer task. Training group showed larger improvement than the control group in the three transfer dual-task conditions, which suggests that training leads to more than specific learning of stimuli/response associations. Attentional costs analyses showed that training led to improved dual-task cost, only in conditions that involved new stimuli or response modalities, but not both. Moreover, training did not lead to a reduced task-set cost in the transfer conditions, which suggests some limitations in transfer effects that can be expected. Overall, the present study supports the notion that cognitive plasticity for attentional control is preserved in late adulthood.
cognitive plasticity; cognitive training; transfer; divided attention; executive function; aging
The saliency map model (Itti and Koch, 2000) is a hierarchically structured computational model, simulating visual saliency processing. Iso-feature processing on feature maps and conspicuity maps precedes cross-dimensional signal processing on the master map, where the most salient location of the visual field is selected. This texture segmentation study focuses on a possible spatial structure on the master map. In four experiments the spatial distance between a texture irregularity in the stimulus (“target”) and a cross-dimensional task irrelevant texture irregularity in the backward mask (“patch”) was varied. The results show that the target-patch distance modulates target detection, and that this modulation is limited to critical distances around the target. We conclude that the signals from different feature dimensions compete on a spatial master map. There is first evidence that the critical distances increase with target eccentricity.
early vision; saliency map; master map; texture segmentation; retinal eccentricity; critical distance; non-classical receptive fields
Conflicts in spatial stimulus–response tasks occur when the task-relevant feature of a stimulus implies a response toward a certain location which does not match the location of stimulus presentation. This conflict leads to increased error rates and longer reaction times, which has been termed Simon effect. A model of dual route processing (automatic and intentional) of stimulus features has been proposed, predicting response conflicts if the two routes are incongruent. Although there is evidence that the prefrontal cortex, notably the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), plays a crucial role in conflict processing, the neuronal basis of dual route architecture is still unknown. In this study, we pursue a novel approach using positron emission tomography (PET) to identify relevant brain areas in a rat model of an auditory Simon task, a neuropsychological interference task, which is commonly used to study conflict processing in humans. For combination with PET we used the metabolic tracer [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose, which accumulates in metabolically active brain cells during the behavioral task. Brain areas involved in conflict processing are supposed to be activated when automatic and intentional route processing lead to different responses (dual route model). Analysis of PET data revealed specific activation patterns for different task settings applicable to the dual route model as established for response conflict processing. The rat motor cortex (M1) may be part of the automatic route or involved in its facilitation, while premotor (M2), prelimbic, and ACC seemed to be essential for inhibiting the incorrect, automatic response, indicating conflict monitoring functions. Our findings and the remarkable similarities to the pattern of activated regions reported during conflict processing in humans demonstrate that our rodent model opens novel opportunities to investigate the anatomical basis of conflict processing and dual route architecture.
prefrontal cortex; rodent model; cognitive conflict; Simon task
To assess whether age-related differences in suppressing nontarget material impact subsequent performance, the authors initially asked younger and older adults to perform a go/nogo task with colored letters used as conflicting go/nogo stimuli and 2 colored numbers as low-conflict nogo stimuli. Next, participants performed another go/nogo task. A previous number was reused as a nogo stimulus and the other as a go stimulus, with new numbers serving as a baseline. In a 1st block of trials, younger adults showed slower responses to previous nogo/now-go numbers than to new go numbers, an effect not shown by older adults. Alternative accounts of these differential transfer costs are discussed.
PMID: 20718536 CAMSID: cams2238
normal aging; suppression; transfer cost; cognitive interference; go/nogo
Temporal and strategic factors that might influence the transformation of verbal task rules into functional stimulus–response associations were investigated in three experiments. In a dual task paradigm of the ABBA type participants were presented new S–R instructions for the A-task at the beginning of each trial. On varying proportions of trials No-go signals rendered the instructed A-task mappings irrelevant before instruction implementation was assessed during performance of an unrelated B-task. Our results indicate that participants refrain from implementing the mappings during instruction presentation when No-go signals appear frequently and late (Exp. 2), and that they can interrupt implementing instructed S–R mappings when frequent No-go signals appear early enough during implementation (Exp. 3). When No-go signals are rare and late, however (Exp. 1), the instructed stimulus features always activate their associated responses during performance of the embedded B-task in an automatic manner. Together, these findings suggest that participants strategically control whether or not they implement verbal instructions. Once implemented, however, instructed S–R associations influence behaviour even when the instructed mappings are no longer task relevant.