Execution-based and verbal code-based stimulus–response associations: proportion manipulations reveal conflict adaptation processes in item-specific priming

  • Christina U. PfeufferEmail author
  • Karolina Moutsopoulou
  • Florian Waszak
  • Andrea Kiesel
Original Article


Stimulus–response (S–R) associations consist of two independent components: Stimulus–classification (S–C) and stimulus–action (S–A) associations. Here, we examined whether these S–C and S–A associations were modulated by cognitive control operations. In two item-specific priming experiments, we systematically manipulated the proportion of trials in which item-specific S–C and/or S–A mappings repeated or switched between the single encoding (prime) and single retrieval (probe) instance of each stimulus (i.e., each stimulus appeared only twice). Thus, we assessed the influence of a list-level proportion switch manipulation on the strength of item-specific S–C and S–A associations. Participants responded slower and committed more errors when item-specific S–C or S–A mappings switched rather than repeated between prime and probe (i.e., S–C/S–A switch effects). S–C switch effects were larger when S–C repetitions rather than switches were frequent on the list-level. Similarly, S–A switch effects were modulated by S–A switch proportion. Most importantly, our findings rule out contingency learning and temporal learning as explanations of the observed results and point towards a conflict adaptation mechanism that selectively adapts the encoding and/or retrieval for each S–R component. Finally, we outline how cognitive control over S–R associations operates in the context of item-specific priming.



This research was supported by a grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [KI1388/5-1, Andrea Kiesel] and a Grant of the Agence Nationale de la Recherche [SRA ANR-13-FRAL-0007-01, Karolina Moutsopoulou].

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

All studies have been approved by the appropriate ethics committee and have, therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All participants gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study. The manuscript does not contain clinical studies or patient data.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cognition, Action, and Sustainability Unit, Department of PsychologyAlbert-Ludwigs-University of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Université Paris DescartesSorbonne Paris CitéParisFrance
  3. 3.Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, UMR 8242ParisFrance

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