Psychological Research

, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

A feature-integration account of sequential effects in the Simon task

  • Bernhard HommelEmail author
  • Robert W. Proctor
  • Kim-Phuong L. Vu
Original Article


Recent studies have shown that the effects of irrelevant spatial stimulus-response (S-R) correspondence (i.e., the Simon effect) occur only after trials in which the stimulus and response locations corresponded. This has been attributed to the gating of irrelevant information or the suppression of an automatic S-R route after experiencing a noncorresponding trial—a challenge to the widespread assumption of direct, intentionally unmediated links between spatial stimulus and response codes. However, trial sequences in a Simon task are likely to produce effects of stimulus- and response-feature integration that may mimic the sequential dependencies of Simon effects. Four experiments confirmed that Simon effects are eliminated if the preceding trial involved a noncorresponding S-R pair. However, this was true even when the preceding response did not depend on the preceding stimulus or if the preceding trial required no response at all. These findings rule out gating/suppression accounts that attribute sequential dependencies to response selection difficulties. Moreover, they are consistent with a feature-integration approach and demonstrate that accounting for the sequential dependencies of Simon effects does not require the assumption of information gating or response suppression.


Simon Effect Compatibility Effect Repetition Effect Stimulus Location Simon Task 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Anke Bogatzky, Patrizia Falkenberg, Alexandra Heinrich, Nicola Korherr, Manuela Mench, Heike Mittmann, Edith Müller, Anke Schlender, and Christian Seidel for collecting the data; Thierry Hasbroucq, Sylvan Kornblum, Wilfried Kunde, and Hartmut Leuthold for comments on previous drafts of this paper; and Heidi John for assistance in preparing the manuscript.


  1. Bargh, J. A. (1989). Conditional automaticity: varieties of automatic influence in social perception and cognition. In J. S. Uleman, & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintended thought (pp. 3–51). London: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  2. De Jong, R. (1995). Strategical determinants of compatibility effects with task uncertainty. Acta Psychologica, 88, 187–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. De Jong, R., Liang, C.-C., & Lauber, E. (1994). Conditional and unconditional automaticity: a dual-process model of effects of spatial stimulus-response correspondence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 20, 731–750.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Dutzi, I. B., & Hommel, B. (2003). Spontaneous but goal-dependent binding of actions and their effects. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  5. Hommel, B. (1993). The relationship between stimulus processing and response selection in the Simon task: evidence for a temporal overlap. Psychological Research, 55, 280–290.Google Scholar
  6. Hommel, B. (1994). Spontaneous decay of response-code activation. Psychological Research, 56, 261–268.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Hommel, B. (1995). Stimulus-response compatibility and the Simon effect: toward an empirical clarification. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 21, 764–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hommel, B. (1996). S-R compatibility effects without response uncertainty. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 49A, 546–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hommel, B. (1998a). Event files: evidence for automatic integration of stimulus-response episodes. Visual Cognition, 5, 183–216.Google Scholar
  10. Hommel, B. (1998b). Automatic stimulus-response translation in dual-task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 1368–1384.Google Scholar
  11. Hommel, B. (1998c). Binding between perceptual objects and action plans: the temporal dynamics of event-file construction. Presentation on the 10th Conference of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology. Jerusalem, September.Google Scholar
  12. Hommel, B. (2000). The prepared reflex: automaticity and control in stimulus-response translation. In S. Monsell, & J. Driver (Eds.), Control of cognitive processes: Attention and performance XVIII (pp. 247–273). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hommel, B. (2003). Feature integration across perception and action: event files affect response choice. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  14. Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2003). Visual attention and the temporal dynamics of feature integration. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  15. Hommel, B., & Eglau, B. (2002). Control of stimulus-response translation in dual-task performance. Psychological Research, 66, 260–273.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 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, 849–937.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Kahneman, D., Treisman, A., & Gibbs, B. J. (1992). The reviewing of object files: object-specific integration of information. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 175–219.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kornblum, S., Hasbroucq, T., & Osman, A. (1990). Dimensional overlap: cognitive basis for stimulus-response compatibility—a model and taxonomy. Psychological Review, 97, 253–270.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kornblum, S., Stevens, G. T., Whipple, A., & Requin, J. (1999). The effects of irrelevant stimuli. I. The time course of stimulus-stimulus and stimulus-response consistency effects with Stroop-like stimuli, Simon-like tasks, and their factorial combinations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 688–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Logan, G. D., & Gordon, R. D. (2001). Executive control of visual attention in dual-task situations. Psychological Review, 108, 393–434.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Logan, G. D., & Schulkind, M. D. (2000). Parallel memory retrieval in dual-task situations. I. Semantic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 26, 1072–1090.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Lu, C.-H., & Proctor, R. W. (1995). The influence of irrelevant location information on performance: a review of the Simon and spatial Stroop effects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2, 174–207.Google Scholar
  23. Marble, J. G., & Proctor, R. W. (2000). Mixing location-relevant and location-irrelevant choice-reaction tasks: influences of location mapping on the Simon effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 26, 1515–1533.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Meiran, N. (1996). Reconfiguration of processing mode prior to task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22, 1423–1442.Google Scholar
  25. Mordkoff, T. (1998). The gating of irrelevant information in selective-attention tasks [Abstract]. Abstracts of the Psychonomic Society, 3, 193.Google Scholar
  26. Neumann, O., & Prinz, W. (1987). Kognitive Antezedenzien von Willkürhandlungen [Cognitive antecedents of voluntary actions]. In H. Heckhausen, & F. E. Weinert (Eds.), Jenseits des Rubikon: der Wille in den Humanwissenschaften (pp. 195–215). Berlin Heidelberg New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  27. Notebaert, W., & Soetens, E. (2003). The influence of irrelevant stimulus changes on stimulus and response repetition effects. Acta Psychologica, 112, 143–156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Notebaert, W., Soetens, E., & Melis, A. (2001). Sequential analysis of a Simon task-evidence for an attention-shift account. Psychological Research, 65, 170–184.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Praamstra, P., Kleine, B.-U., & Schnitzler, A. (1999). Magnetic stimulation of the dorsal premotor cortex modulates the Simon effect. Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology, 10, 3671–3674.Google Scholar
  30. Proctor, R. W., & Vu, K.-P. L. (2002). Eliminating, magnifying, and reversing spatial compatibility effects with mixed location-relevant and irrelevant trials. In W. Prinz, & B. Hommel (Eds.) Common mechanisms in perception and action: Attention and Performance XIX (pp. 443–473). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Proctor, R. W., Vu, K.-P. L., & Marble, J. G. (2003). Mixing location-relevant and irrelevant tasks: spatial compatibility effects eliminated by stimuli that share the same spatial codes. Visual Cognition, 10, 15–50.Google Scholar
  32. Rogers, R. D., & Monsell, S. (1995). Costs of a predictable switch between simple cognitive tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 124, 207–231.Google Scholar
  33. Simon, J. R. (1990). The effects of an irrelevant directional cue on human information processing. In R. W. Proctor, & T. G. Reeve (Eds.), Stimulus-response compatibility (pp. 31–86). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  34. Stoet, G., & Hommel, B. (1999). Action planning and the temporal binding of response codes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 1625–1640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stoffels, E. J. (1996). On stage robustness and response selection routes: further evidence. Acta Psychologica, 91, 67–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stürmer, B., Leuthold, H., & Sommer, W. (1998). Strategische Effekte und kurzfristige Modulationen im Simon-Paradigma [Strategic effects and short-term modulations in the Simon paradigm] [Abstract]. In H. Lachnit, A. Jacobs, & F. Rösler (Eds.), Experimentelle Psychologie: Abstracts der 40. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen (pp. 365–366). Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  37. Stürmer, B., Leuthold, H., Soetens, E., Schröter, H., & Sommer, W. (2002). Control over location-based response activation in the Simon task: behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28, 1345–1363.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Valle-Inclán, F., & Redondo, M. (1998). On the automaticity of ipsilateral response activation in the Simon effect. Psychophysiology, 35, 366–371.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Valle-Inclán, F., Hackley, S. A., & de Labra, C. (2002). Does stimulus-driven response activation underlie the Simon effect? In W. Prinz, & B. Hommel (Eds.), Common mechanisms in perception and action: Attention and Performance XIX (pp. 474–493). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Vu, K.-P. L., & Proctor, R. W. (2003). Elimination and enhancement of spatial compatibility effects with mixed mappings. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernhard Hommel
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Robert W. Proctor
    • 3
  • Kim-Phuong L. Vu
    • 3
  1. 1.Cognitive Psychology UnitLeiden UniversityRB LeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Psychological ResearchMunichGermany
  3. 3.Purdue UniversityW. LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations