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J Mot Behav. 2002 Mar;34(1):3-10.

Locus of inhibition in the masked priming of response alternatives.

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Department of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK.


Masked prime stimuli presented immediately before target stimuli in a choice reaction task give rise to behavioral costs when the primes and the target stimuli are mapped to the same response and result in benefits when they are mapped to opposite responses. Researchers assume that this negative compatibility effect reflects inhibitory processes in the control of perceptuomotor links. The authors investigated whether the inhibition operates at the level of abstract central codes or at effector-specific motor stages. In 2 experiments (N = 8 participants in each), left or right hand or foot responses were required to target stimuli that were preceded by masked arrow primes mapped to the same response side as the target stimuli in compatible trials and to the opposite response side in incompatible trials; the primes were irrelevant in neutral trials. In Experiment 1, when the masked primes determined both response side and modality, there was no transfer of negative compatibility effects across response modalities. That finding is inconsistent with a central abstract locus of inhibition and suggests that inhibition operates at effector-specific motor stages. In Experiment 2, primes conveyed only response side information but left response modality uncertain, and negative compatibility effects were elicited for both hand and foot responses, suggesting that partially informative masked primes can trigger a parallel activation and subsequent inhibition of response processes within separate effector systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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