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Trajectory deviations in spatial compatibility tasks with peripheral and central stimuli

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It is widely held that the spatial compatibility effect emerges because the irrelevant spatial dimension of the target stimulus activates a response simultaneous to the activation of a response to the relevant stimulus dimension. The non-target response facilitates response planning on compatible trials, but interferes with response planning on incompatible trials. In support of this hypothesis, the trajectories of aiming movements executed on incompatible trials deviate in the direction of the stimulus location. These deviations are thought to occur because the characteristics of the simultaneously active target and non-target responses merge. Previously, target stimuli were presented at the target locations leaving open the possibility that the response activation and subsequent deviations were dependent on the stimulus-driven attentional capture associated with the dynamic change of stimulus onset. The present research was conducted to determine if attention capturing events at the target locations were necessary for the movement deviations to emerge by investigating if trajectory deviations are also observed when the spatial dimension is presented centrally. Participants in the Central condition aimed to left and right target locations based on the color of a ring worn on a finger that pointed toward the response locations. Similar to results from a Peripheral condition, trajectory deviations were observed in the Central condition. Although it is unclear if the deviations in the Central condition occurred because of attentional shifts driven by the cue or response preplanning, these results demonstrate that dynamic changes at target locations are sufficient, but not necessary, to generate trajectory deviations.

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This research was funded through grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and Canada Foundation for Innovation.

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Correspondence to Timothy N. Welsh.

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Welsh, T.N., Pacione, S.M., Neyedli, H.F. et al. Trajectory deviations in spatial compatibility tasks with peripheral and central stimuli. Psychological Research 79, 650–657 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-014-0597-x

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  • Target Location
  • Compatibility Effect
  • Attentional Capture
  • Imperative Stimulus
  • Home Position