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A feature-integration account of sequential effects in the Simon task


Recent studies have shown that the effects of irrelevant spatial stimulus-response (S-R) correspondence (i.e., the Simon effect) occur only after trials in which the stimulus and response locations corresponded. This has been attributed to the gating of irrelevant information or the suppression of an automatic S-R route after experiencing a noncorresponding trial—a challenge to the widespread assumption of direct, intentionally unmediated links between spatial stimulus and response codes. However, trial sequences in a Simon task are likely to produce effects of stimulus- and response-feature integration that may mimic the sequential dependencies of Simon effects. Four experiments confirmed that Simon effects are eliminated if the preceding trial involved a noncorresponding S-R pair. However, this was true even when the preceding response did not depend on the preceding stimulus or if the preceding trial required no response at all. These findings rule out gating/suppression accounts that attribute sequential dependencies to response selection difficulties. Moreover, they are consistent with a feature-integration approach and demonstrate that accounting for the sequential dependencies of Simon effects does not require the assumption of information gating or response suppression.

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    Using a fixed tone-S1 interval has the advantage of keeping the S1-S2 interval constant, but it introduces variability in the R1-S1 interval. The obvious alternative of presenting S1 at R1 onset has the advantage of keeping the R1-S1 interval constant, but it introduces variability in the S1-S2 interval. As the data available thus far suggest that the S1-S2 interval has a much stronger impact on S-R feature integration than the R1-S1 interval (Dutzi & Hommel, 2003; Hommel & Colzato, 2003), we preferred the first option.


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We would like to thank Anke Bogatzky, Patrizia Falkenberg, Alexandra Heinrich, Nicola Korherr, Manuela Mench, Heike Mittmann, Edith Müller, Anke Schlender, and Christian Seidel for collecting the data; Thierry Hasbroucq, Sylvan Kornblum, Wilfried Kunde, and Hartmut Leuthold for comments on previous drafts of this paper; and Heidi John for assistance in preparing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bernhard Hommel.

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Hommel, B., Proctor, R.W. & Vu, K.L. A feature-integration account of sequential effects in the Simon task. Psychological Research 68, 1–17 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-003-0132-y

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  • Simon Effect
  • Compatibility Effect
  • Repetition Effect
  • Stimulus Location
  • Simon Task