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Dissecting the response in response–effect compatibility

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Abstract

Voluntary actions are guided by sensory anticipations of body-related as well as environment-related action effects. Even though action effects in the environment typically resemble the action goal proper, anticipations of body-related effects can cause interference if they do not correspond to intended environment-related effects. The present study explored which specific response features cause such interference: the spatial location of the moving limb or its anatomical connection to the body causes such interference? Using a response–effect compatibility design with normal and crossed hand-key mappings, we show that environment-related effects are predominantly related to spatial rather than anatomical response features, ensuring that goal-directed behavior is flexible and efficient at the same time. Furthermore, results indicate that this mechanism applies to both, free- and forced-choice actions.

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Notes

  1. The term goal is used very heterogeneously in the psychological literature and can refer to both the spatial end point of a movement and more abstract goals such as intended changes in the environment. For the following argument, we will use the term goal exclusively with the latter connotation, whereas we refer to a movement’s end point as spatial response feature.

  2. Please note that an instruction to use either a specific key or a specific hand would have been likely to bias the participants’ coding of the response—at least such an effect would be predicted by an intentional-weighting account (Hommel 1996). The same argument holds true if either key-effect or hand-effect mapping would have been constant throughout the experiment, rendering the constant mapping more reliable than the other mapping. This, however, was not the question of the present study. Instead, we aimed at studying which feature would be used preferentially if participants can freely choose what to do in situations that do not favor one or the other feature.

  3. This difference might result from an altered learning process (Herwig et al. 2007; Wolfensteller and Ruge 2011), or from a differential tendency to actually apply learned action-effect associations (Pfister et al. 2011).

  4. The color stimuli in Experiment 2 did not carry an inherent spatial meaning as the arrows in Experiment 1 did. Still these color stimuli may have become linked to spatial features (and eventually acquire the power to activate them) by the instructions to shoot either a left or right chicken (see Metzker and Dreisbach 2009 for a similar logic). The merely acquired spatial meaning of color stimuli compared with the inherent spatial meaning of arrows may also explain the somewhat smaller effect size of the interaction of hand-key mapping and choice mode in Experiment 2 compared with Experiment 1.

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Correspondence to Roland Pfister.

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Pfister, R., Kunde, W. Dissecting the response in response–effect compatibility. Exp Brain Res 224, 647–655 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-012-3343-x

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