Separating after-effects of target and distractor processing in the tactile sensory modality

  • Ann-Katrin WessleinEmail author
  • Birte Moeller
  • Christian Frings
  • Carina Giesen


The present study investigated the cognitive mechanisms underlying aftereffects of tactile target and distractor processing. In our experiment, participants selected tactile target stimuli against simultaneously presented tactile distractor stimuli in prime–probe sequences. Tactile distractors in each prime/probe trial were either response incompatible (i.e., interfering at the response level) or response neutral (i.e., noninterfering at the response level), manipulated between participants. Furthermore, distractor relation (repetition vs. change) and response relation (repetition vs. change) across prime–probe sequences were orthogonally varied within participants. Thus, independent estimates of distractor repetition main effects (that are attributable to distractor-specific prime processing and have previously been interpreted in terms of inhibition or episodic retrieval processes) and the modulation of distractor repetition effects due to response relation (that is target specific and can only be explained in terms of event-file retrieval) were assessed (see Giesen, Frings, & Rothermund, Memory & Cognition, 40, 373–387, 2012). Replicating previous studies with visual stimuli, simple distractor repetition effects were stronger for response-incompatible compared with response-neutral tactile distractors. In contrast, event-file retrieval as reflected in distractor-response binding retrieval effects was not modulated by whether the distractors were response incompatible or response neutral. Together, these findings highlight that in tactile tasks, prime-distractor and prime-target processing both hold the potential to cause aftereffects during probe performance.


Distractor-response binding Distractor inhibition Episodic retrieval Touch 



  1. Altmann, E. M. (2011). Testing probability matching and episodic retrieval accounts of response repetition effects in task switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37(4), 935–951. Google Scholar
  2. Buchner, A., Zabal, A., & Mayr, S. (2003). Auditory, visual, and cross-modal negative priming. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 917–923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Buckolz, E., Goldfarb, A., & Khan, M. (2004). The use of a distractor-assigned response slows later responding in a location negative priming task. Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 837–845. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen, J. (1969). Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Craig, J. C. (1974). Vibrotactile difference thresholds for intensity and the effect of a masking stimulus. Perception & Psychophysics, 15, 123–127. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Craig, J. C. (1995). Vibrotactile masking: The role of response competition. Perception & Psychophysics, 57, 1190–1200. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Craig, J. C. (2000). Processing of sequential tactile patterns: Effects of a neutral stimulus. Perception & Psychophysics, 62, 596–606. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. DeYoe, E. A., & Van Essen, D. C. (1988). Concurrent processing streams in monkey visual cortex. Trends in Neurosciences, 11, 1219–226. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dijkerman, H. C., & de Haan, E. H. F. (2007). Somatosensory processes subserving perception and action. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 189–239. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Drewing, K., & Schneider, W. X. (2007). Disentangling functional from structural descriptions, and the coordinating role of attention. Behavioral and Brain Science, 30, 205–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Druey, M. D. (2014). Stimulus-category and response-repetition effects in task switching: An evaluation of four explanations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(1), 125–146. Google Scholar
  12. Eriksen, B. A., & Eriksen, C. W. (1974). Effects of noise letters upon the identification of a target letter in a nonsearch task. Perception & Psychophysics, 16, 143–149. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A.-G., & Buchner, A. (2007). G*Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral and biomedical sciences. Behavioral Research Methods, 39, 175–191. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frings, C., Amendt, A., & Spence, C. (2011). When seeing doesn’t matter: Assessing the aftereffects of tactile distractor processing in the blind and the sighted. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37, 1174–1181. Google Scholar
  15. Frings, C., Bader, R., & Spence, C. (2008). Selection in touch: Negative priming with tactile stimuli. Perception & Psychophysics, 70, 516–523. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frings, C., Moeller, B., & Rothermund, K. (2013). Retrieval of event files can be conceptually mediated. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 75, 700–709. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frings, C., & Rothermund, K. (2011). To be or not to be . . . included in an event file: Integration and retrieval of distractors in stimulus-response episodes is influenced by perceptual grouping. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 1209–1227. Google Scholar
  18. Frings, C., Rothermund, K., & Wentura, D. (2007). Distractor repetitions retrieve previous responses to targets. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 1367–1377. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frings, C., Schneider, K. K., & Fox, E. (2015). The negative priming paradigm—An update and implications for selective attention. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 1577–1597. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frings, C., & Spence, C. (2010). Crossmodal congruency effects based on stimulus identity. Brain Research, 1354, 113–122. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frings, C., & Wühr, P. (2007). Prime-display offset modulates negative priming only for easy-selection tasks. Memory & Cognition, 35, 504-513. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Giesen, C., Eberhard, M., & Rothermund, K. (2015). Loss of attentional inhibition in older adults—Does it really exist? An experimental dissociation of inhibitory and memory retrieval processes. Psychology & Aging, 30, 220–231. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Giesen, C., Frings, C., & Rothermund, K. (2012). Differences in the strength of distractor inhibition do not affect distractor-response bindings. Memory & Cognition, 40, 373–387. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Giesen, C., & Rothermund, K. (2011). Affective matching moderates S–R binding. Cognition and Emotion, 25, 342–350. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Giesen, C., & Rothermund, K. (2014). Distractor repetitions retrieve previous responses and previous targets: Experimental dissociations of distractor-response and distractor-target bindings. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40, 645–659. Google Scholar
  26. Giesen, C., & Rothermund, K. (2016). Multi-level response coding in stimulus-response bindings: Irrelevant distractors retrieve both semantic and motor response codes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42, 1643–1656. Google Scholar
  27. Giesen, C., Weissmann, F., & Rothermund, K. (2018). Dissociating distractor inhibition and episodic retrieval processes in children: No evidence for developmental deficits. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 166, 212–231. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goodale, M. A., & Milner, A. D. (1992). Separate visual pathways for perception and action. Trends in Neurosciences, 15, 20–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Grison, S., & Strayer, D. L. (2001). Negative priming and perceptual fluency: More than what meets the eye. Perception & Psychophysics, 63, 1063–1071. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hommel, B. (1998). Event files: Evidence for automatic integration of stimulus-response episodes. Visual Cognition, 5, 183–216. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hommel, B. (2004). Event files: Feature binding in and across perception and action. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 494–500. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hommel, B. (2007). Feature integration across perception and action: Event files affect response choice. Psychological Research, 71, 42–63. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hommel, B., Müsseler, J., Aschersleben, G., & Prinz, W. (2001). The theory of event coding (TEC): A framework for perception and action planning. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 849–878. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Horner, A. J. (2016). Retrieval of bindings between task-irrelevant stimuli and responses can facilitate behaviour under conditions of high response certainty. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69, 561–573. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Houghton, G., & Tipper, S. P. (1994). A model of inhibitory mechanisms in selective attention. In D. Dagenbach & T. H. Carr (Eds.), Inhibitory processes in attention, memory, and language (pp. 53–112). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  36. Houghton, G., Tipper, S. P., Weaver, B., & Shore, D. I. (1996). Inhibition and interference in selective attention: Some tests of a neural network model. Visual Cognition, 3, 119–164. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hübner, R., & Druey, M. D. (2006). Response execution, selection, or activation: What is sufficient for response-related repetition effects under task shifting? Psychological Research, 70, 245–261. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lamy, D., Antebi, C., Aviani, N., & Carmel, T. (2008). Priming of popout provides reliable measures of target activation and distractor inhibition in selective attention. Vision Research, 48, 30–41.
  39. Mayr, S., & Buchner, A. (2006). Evidence for episodic retrieval of inadequate prime responses in auditory negative priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 932–943. Google Scholar
  40. Mayr, S., & Buchner, A. (2007). Negative priming as a memory phenomenon: A review of 20 years of negative priming research. Journal of Psychology, 215, 35–51. Google Scholar
  41. Milner, A. D., & Goodale, M. A. (1995). The visual brain in action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Mishkin, M., Ungerleider, L. G., & Macko, K. A. (1983). Object vision and spatial vision: Two cortical pathways. Trends in Neurosciences, 6, 414–417. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Moeller, B., & Frings, C. (2011). Remember the touch: Tactile distractors retrieve previous responses to targets. Experimental Brain Research, 72, 2176–2183. Google Scholar
  44. Moeller, B., & Frings, C. (2014). Attention meets binding: Only attended distractors are used for the retrieval of event files. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 76, 959–978. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Moeller, B., Frings, C., & Pfister, R. (2016a). The structure of distractor-response bindings: Conditions for configural and elemental integration. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 42, 464–479. Google Scholar
  46. Moeller, B., Pfister, R., Kunde, W., & Frings, C. (2016b). A common mechanism behind distractor-response and response-effect binding? Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78, 1074–1086. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moeller, B., Rothermund, K., & Frings, C. (2012). Integrating the irrelevant sound: Grouping modulates the integration of auditory distractors into event files. Experimental Psychology, 59, 258–264. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Neill, W. T. (1977). Inhibitory and facilitatory processes in selective attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 3, 444–450.Google Scholar
  49. Neill, W. T., & Kleinsmith, A. L. (2016). Spatial negative priming: Location or response? Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78, 2411–2419. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Neill, W. T., & Valdes, L. A. (1992). Persistence of negative priming: Steady-state or decay? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 18, 565–576. Google Scholar
  51. Neill, W. T., Valdes, L. A., Terry, K. M., & Gorfein, D. S. (1992). Persistence of negative priming: II. Evidence for episodic trace retrieval. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 18, 993–1000. Google Scholar
  52. Neumann, E., & DeSchepper, B. G. (1991). Costs and benefits of target activation and distractor inhibition in selective attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 17, 1136–1145.Google Scholar
  53. O’Brien, R. G., & Kaiser, M. K. (1985). MANOVA method for analyzing repeated measures designs: An extensive primer. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 316–333. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Olsson, M. J. (1999). Implicit testing of odor memory: Instances of positive and negative repetition priming. Chemical Senses, 24, 347–350. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Reed, C. L., Grubb, J. D., & Steele, C. (2006). Hands up: Attentional prioritization of space near the hand. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 166–177. Google Scholar
  56. Rothermund, K., Wentura, D., & De Houwer, J. (2005). Retrieval of incidental stimulus–response associations as a source of negative priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31, 482–495. Google Scholar
  57. Tipper, S. P. (1985). The negative priming effect: Inhibitory priming by ignored objects. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 37, 571–590. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tipper, S. P., Brehaut, J. C., & Driver, J. (1990). Selection of moving and static objects for the control of spatially directed action. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 16, 492–504. Google Scholar
  59. Tipper, S. P., & Cranston, M. (1985). Selective attention and priming: Inhibitory and facilitatory effects of ignored primes. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 37, 591–611. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Treisman, A. (1996). The binding problem. Cognitive Neuroscience, 6, 171–178. Google Scholar
  61. Tukey, J. W. (1977). Exploratory data analysis. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  62. Uttal, W. R. (1960). Inhibitory interaction of responses to electrical stimuli in the fingers. Journal of Comparitive & Physiological Psychology, 53, 47–51. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wesslein, A. K., Spence, C., & Frings, C. (2014). When vision influences the invisible distractor: Tactile response compatibility effects require vision. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 763–774. Google Scholar
  64. Wesslein, A. K., Spence, C., Mast, F., & Frings, C. (2016). Spatial negative priming: In touch, it’s all about location. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78, 464–473. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yashar, A., & Lamy, D. (2010). Intertrial repetition facilitates selection in time: Common mechanisms underlie spatial and temporal search. Psychological Science, 21, 243–251. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zmigrod, S., & Hommel, B. (2009). Auditory event files: Integrating auditory perception and action planning. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 71, 352–362. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann-Katrin Wesslein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Birte Moeller
    • 2
  • Christian Frings
    • 2
  • Carina Giesen
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TrierTrierGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of JenaJenaGermany

Personalised recommendations