Target-distractor congruency: sequential effects in a temporal flanker task

Psychol Res. 2020 Mar;84(2):292-301. doi: 10.1007/s00426-018-1061-0. Epub 2018 Aug 6.

Abstract

The Congruency Sequence Effect (CSE) denotes the common finding that distractor-target Congruency Effects are reduced after incongruent compared to after congruent trials. Although the CSE is widely attributed to attentional adjustment (i.e., increasing or decreasing the bias in attentional weights regarding processing the target or distractor), unequivocal evidence for this assumption is missing. To investigate the CSE and attentional adjustment we used a temporal flanker task and intermixed a "temporal search task", in which a target stimulus occurred randomly at one of two temporal positions, corresponding to the temporal positions of the target and the distractor occurrence in the temporal flanker task. We observed a CSE that could not be explained in terms of feature sequences, distractor-related contingencies, or a strategy of reversed distractor-response priming after incongruent trials. Furthermore, following a temporal search task trial, the Congruency Effect was larger when the search target occurred on the first than on the second temporal position, demonstrating that a reduced attentional bias towards the second temporal position increased interference from a distractor presented on the first temporal position. This supports a crucial assumption of the attentional adjustment account of the CSE. Performance in the temporal search task, however, provided no evidence for attentional adjustment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Attentional Bias
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Young Adult

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