When two visual stimuli occur within 8 to 17 ms of one another, subjects cannot tell they are asynchronous, yet recent results show they are not processed as simultaneous. Two spatially separate squares were presented at an interval ranging from 0 to 92 ms and remained on the screen until subjects responded. Subjects pressed a right or left response key according to the judged simultaneity/asynchrony of the stimuli. We evaluated the Simon effect, i.e., the tendency to press the key on the same side as the stimulus. We found an effect even when the squares were displayed on opposite sides of the screen, with their onsets separated by less than 20 ms. Controls were biased towards the last stimulus, whereas patients with schizophrenia were biased towards the first. We investigate here whether the results are related to spatial or temporal processing. Using the same paradigm, we explored the impact of spatial grouping by comparing connected vs. unconnected stimuli and manipulating the predictability of the second stimulus location. We tested different groups of mildly symptomatic patients and matched controls in two studies. Under 20 ms, when stimuli were connected and the 2nd square location was predictable, patients tended to press the key to the side of the 1st square, whereas controls displayed the opposite tendency. The results suggest that controls put more emphasis on the last occurring event, but not patients with schizophrenia. This impairment is observed when spatial difficulties are removed, suggesting it is related to time rather than space.
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