Different levels of learning interact to shape the congruency sequence effect.
The congruency effect in distracter interference tasks is often reduced after incongruent relative to congruent trials. Moreover, this congruency sequence effect (CSE) is influenced by learning related to concrete stimulus and response features as well as by learning related to abstract cognitive control processes. There is an ongoing debate, however, over whether interactions between these learning processes are best explained by an episodic retrieval account, an adaptation by binding account, or a cognitive efficiency account of the CSE. To make this distinction, we orthogonally manipulated the expression of these learning processes in a novel factorial design involving the prime-probe arrow task. In Experiment 1, these processes interacted in an over-additive fashion to influence CSE magnitude. In Experiment 2, we replicated this interaction while showing it was not driven by conditional differences in the size of the congruency effect. In Experiment 3, we ruled out an alternative account of this interaction as reflecting conditional differences in learning related to concrete stimulus and response features. These findings support an episodic retrieval account of the CSE, in which repeating a stimulus feature from the previous trial facilitates the retrieval and use of previous-trial control parameters, thereby boosting control in the current trial. In contrast, they do not fit with (a) an adaptation by binding account, in which CSE magnitude is directly related to the size of the congruency effect, or (b) a cognitive efficiency account, in which costly control processes are recruited only when behavioral adjustments cannot be mediated by low-level associative mechanisms.
Weissman, DH; Hawks, ZW; Egner, T
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