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Correlations between spatial compatibility effects: are arrows more like locations or words?


Responses are more efficient when their spatial mappings with features of targets are compatible compared to when they are incompatible, even when those features are irrelevant to task performance. Currently, a debate exists as to whether spatial information conveyed by different stimulus modes leads to qualitatively different spatial representations. We investigated the relations between three of the most commonly used spatial stimulus modes—arrows, locations, and location words—using correlations of compatibility effects between each of these modes as well as compatibility effects at different segments of their response time distributions. Our results show that when spatial information is irrelevant to task performance (the Simon task), the compatibility effects elicited by arrows and words are more strongly related with each other than with those of locations. However, when spatial information is task relevant (the stimulus–response compatibility SRC task), the compatibility effects elicited by arrows and locations are more related, and both are less related to the effect elicited by words. We suggest that these changing relations between stimulus modes are strategically determined based on which spatial coding technique for arrows is most advantageous to task performance. Furthermore, the varying relations between these spatial compatibility effects indicate that the compatibility effect with one stimulus mode is not always predictive of the compatibility effect in another mode.

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    Because the focus of the correlational analyses was the overall pattern of relationships between stimulus modes and RT bins, and Bartlett’s test found that the relationships between variables in the correlation matrix were not random, no adjustment was made for multiple comparisons.


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Correspondence to James D. Miles.

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Miles, J.D., Proctor, R.W. Correlations between spatial compatibility effects: are arrows more like locations or words?. Psychological Research 76, 777–791 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-011-0378-8

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  • Spatial Information
  • Simon Effect
  • Compatibility Effect
  • Simon Task
  • Stimulus Mode