, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 174-207

The influence of irrelevant location information on performance: A review of the Simon and spatial Stroop effects


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of irrelevant location information on performance of visual choice-reaction tasks. We review empirical findings and theoretical explanations from two domains, those of the Simon effect and the spatial Stroop effect, in which stimulus location has been shown to affect reaction time when irrelevant to the task. We then integrate the findings and explanations from the two domains to clarify how and why stimulus location influences performance even when it is uninformative to the correct response. Factors that influence the processing of irrelevant location information include response modality, relative timing with respect to the relevant information, spatial coding, and allocation of attention. The most promising accounts are offered by models in which response selection is a function of (1) strength of association of the irrelevant stimulus information with the response and (2) temporal overlap of the resulting response activation with that produced by the relevant stimulus information.

We would like to thank Bernhard Hommel, Colin MacLeod, Bob Melara, Jim Neely, Richard Schweickert, Richard Simon, and Howard Zelaznik for helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript.