The Simon Effect in Action: Planning and/or On‐Line Control Effects?

Cognitive Science 39 (5):972-991 (2015)
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Choice reaction tasks are performed faster when stimulus location corresponds to response location. This spatial stimulus–response compatibility effect affects performance at the level of action planning and execution. However, when response selection is completed before movement initiation, the Simon effect arises only at the planning level. The aim of this study was to ascertain whether when a precocious response selection is requested, the Simon effect can be detected on the kinematics characterizing the online control phase of a non-ballistic movement. Participants were presented with red or green colored squares, which could appear on the right, left, above, or below a central cross. Depending on the square's color, participants had to release one of two buttons, then reach toward and press a corresponding lateral pad. We found evidence of the Simon effect on both action planning and on-line control. Moreover, the investigation of response conflict at the level of previous trials, a factor that might determine interference at the level of the current response, revealed a conflict adaptation process across trials. Results are discussed in terms of current theories concerned with the Simon effect and the distinction between action planning and control



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Roberto Nicoletti
Università degli Studi di Bologna