We hypothesize that a shared spatial attention mechanism is used for both perception and action. To this end we created a new dual-task version of the classical Simon task. In one task, the spatial-input task, associated with input spatial attention, participants named one shape out of two bilaterally presented colored shapes. In a second task, the spatial-output task, associated with output spatial attention, participants discriminated between high and low pitch tones by pressing either a left or a right key. In Experiment 1, input for both tasks appeared simultaneously, and participants were instructed not to prioritize either task. A between tasks Simon-like effect was found for responses to both tasks. Reaction times were shorter when the side of the relevant shape in the spatial-input task and the side of the correct response in the spatial-output task were congruent. In Experiment 2, we manipulated the stimulus-onset asynchrony (SOA) between the inputs for the two tasks and showed that the Simon-like effect remained intact at all SOAs. Experiment 3 was similar to Experiment 1 except that the vocal response for the spatial-input task was not speeded. A Simon-like effect was still observed. Experiment 4 was the same as Experiment 3 except that the non-speeded response for the spatial-input task was manual rather than vocal. No Simon-like effect was observed in this experiment. Our results support a shared spatial attention mechanism involved in the Simon effect and indicate that this spatial attention mechanism is shared by perception and action.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
It is important to distinguish between this claim and a different attention-related claim according to which the Simon effect is due to an attentional shift toward a location (e.g., Nicoletti & Umiltà, 1994). See Hommel (1993) and Zimba and Brito (1995), for a critical examination of this attentional shift hypothesis.
We presented the two tasks in that order because this was the order used by Müsseler et al. (2005). To make sure that the same pattern of results would be obtained with a reversed order, we conducted another experiment in which the visual task appeared with (at 0 SOA), or before the tone task. All other aspects of this experiment were identical to those of Experiment 2. We obtained similar Simon-like effects with a minor difference (lack of congruency effect when the SOA was 450 ms). The planned comparisons within each task were as follows: congruency effect for the spatial input task: when the SOA was 0 ms [t(19) = 2.78, p = 0.0059, Cohen's d = 0.6]; when the SOA was 150 ms [t(19) = 1.83, p = 0.0418, Cohen's d = 0.41]; when the SOA was 450 ms [t(19) = 0.98, p = 0.1960, Cohen's d = 0.22].
Congruency effect for the spatial output task: when the SOA was 0 ms [t(19) = 4.51, p = 0.0002, Cohen's d = 1.01]; when the SOA was 150 ms [t(19) = 2.98, p = 0.0041, Cohen's d = 0.68]; when the SOA was 450 ms [t(19) = 2.64, p = 0.0081, Cohen's d = 0.59].
To make sure that the same pattern of results would be obtained regardless of the instructions, we conducted another experiment that was identical to Experiment 2 except that participants were explicitly instructed to respond first to the spatial output task. We obtained a similar Simon-like effect. The planned comparisons within each task were as follows: congruency effect for the spatial input task: when the SOA was 0 ms [t(19) = 2.35, p = 0.0272, Cohen's d = 0.38]; when the SOA was 150 ms [t(19) = 3.10, p = 0.0059, Cohen's d = 0.69]; when the SOA was 450 ms [t(19) = 2.09, p = 0.0431, Cohen's d = 0.29].
Congruency effect for the spatial output task: when the SOA was 0 ms [t(19) = 2.57, p = 0.0186, Cohen's d = 0.42]; when the SOA was 150 ms [t(19) = 2.34, p = 0.0304, Cohen's d = 0.52]; when the SOA was 450 ms [t(19) = 2.29, p = 0.0333, Cohen's d = 0.35].
The error rates in the spatial-input task were 0.047 in the congruent condition and 0.050 in the incongruent condition.
The error rates in the spatial-input task were 0.005 in the congruent condition and 0.006 in the incongruent condition.
Abrahamse, E. L., & Van Der Lubbe, R. H. J. (2008). Endogenous orienting modulates the Simon effect: Critical factors in experimental design. Psychological Research, 72(3), 261–272. doi:10.1007/s00426-007-0110-x.
Bridgeman, B., & Tseng, P. (2011). Embodied cognition and the perception-action link. Physics of Life Reviews,. doi:10.1016/j.plrev.2011.01.002.
Brisson, B., & Jolicoeur, P. (2007). The N2pc component and stimulus duration. NeuroReport, 18(11), 1163–1166. doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e3281e72d1b.
Cohen, A., & Magen, H. (2005). Hierarchical systems of attention and action. In: Attention in action: Advances from cognitive neuroscience (pp. 27–67). doi:10.4324/9780203449226_chapter_2.
Deubel, H., & Schneider, W. X. (1996). Saccade target selection and object recognition: Evidence for a common attentional mechanism. Vision Research, 36(12), 1827–1837. doi:10.1016/0042-6989(95)00294-4.
Eimer, M. (1996). The N2pc component as an indicator of attentional selectivity. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 99(3), 225–234. doi:10.1016/S0921-884X(96)95711-2.
Eimer, M. (1998). The lateralized readiness potential as an on-line measure of central response activation processes. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 30(1), 146–156.
Gherri, E., & Eimer, M. (2010). Manual response preparation disrupts spatial attention: An electrophysiological investigation of links between action and attention. Neuropsychologia, 48(4), 961–969. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.11.017.
Hazeltine, E., Ruthruff, E., & Remington, R. W. (2006). The role of input and output modality pairings in dual-task performance: Evidence for content-dependent central interference. Cognitive Psychology, 52(4), 291–345. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2005.11.001.
Hazeltine, E., Teague, D., & Ivry, R. B. (2002). Simultaneous dual-task performance reveals parallel response selection after practice. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 28(3), 527–545. doi:10.1037/0096-15184.108.40.2067.
Hedge, A., & Marsh, N. W. A. (1975). The effect of irrelevant spatial correspondences on two-choice response-time. Acta Psychologica, 39(6), 427–439. doi:10.1016/0001-6918(75)90041-4.
Hommel, B. (1993). The role of attention for the Simon effect. Psychological Research, 55(3), 208–222. doi:10.1007/BF00419608.
Hommel, B. (2009). Action control according to TEC (theory of event coding). Psychological Research, 73(4), 512–526. doi:10.1007/s00426-009-0234-2.
Hommel, B. (2011a). Attention and spatial stimulus coding in the Simon task: A rejoinder to van der Lubbe and Abrahamse (2010). Acta Psychologica, 136(2), 265–268. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2010.10.002.
Hommel, B. (2011b). The Simon effect as tool and heuristic. Acta Psychol (Amst), 136(2), 189–202. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2010.04.011.
Hommel, B., Müsseler, J., Aschersleben, G., & Prinz, W. (2001). The theory of event coding (TEC): A framework for perception and action planning. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(5), 849–937. doi:10.1017/S0140525X01000103.
Israel, M., & Cohen, A. (2011). Involuntary strategy-dependent dual task performance. Psychological Research, 75(6), 513–524.
Johnston, J. C., McCann, R. S., & Remington, R. W. (1995). Chronometric evidence for two types of attention. Psychological Science, 6(6), 365–369. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1995.tb00527.x.
Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. The American Journal of Psychology,. doi:10.2307/1421603.
Kiss, M., Van Velzen, J., & Eimer, M. (2008). The N2pc component and its links to attention shifts and spatially selective visual processing. Psychophysiology, 45(2), 240–249. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.2007.00611.x.
Koch, I., & Jolicoeur, P. (2007). Orthogonal cross-task compatibility: Abstract spatial coding in dual tasks. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14(1), 45–50. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17546730.
Koch, I., Metin, B., & Schuch, S. (2003). The role of temporal unpredictability for process interference and code overlap in perception-action dual tasks. Psychological Research, 67(4), 244–252. doi:10.1007/s00426-002-0125-2.
Koch, I., & Prinz, W. (2002). Process interference and code overlap in dual-task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 28(1), 192–201. doi:10.1037//0096-15220.127.116.11.
Levy, J., & Pashler, H. (2001). Is dual-task slowing instruction dependent? Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 27(4), 862–869. doi:10.1037/0096-1518.104.22.1682.
Lien, M. C., & Proctor, R. W. (2000). Multiple spatial correspondence effects on dual-task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 26(4), 1260–1280. doi:10.1037/0096-1522.214.171.1240.
Luck, S. J., & Hillyard, S. A. (1994). Spatial filtering during visual search: Evidence from human electrophysiology. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 20(5), 1000–1014. doi:10.1037/0096-15126.96.36.1990.
Magen, H., & Cohen, A. (2005). Location specificity in response selection processes for visual stimuli. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 12, 541–548. doi:10.3758/BF03193802.
Magen, H., & Cohen, A. (2007). Modularity beyond perception: Evidence from single task interference paradigms. Cognitive Psychology, 55(1), 1–36. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2006.09.003.
Magen, H., & Cohen, A. (2010). Modularity beyond perception: Evidence from the PRP paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 36(2), 395–414. doi:10.1037/a0017174.
Matthews, T., Lefebvre, C., Fortier-Gauthier, U., Cohen, A., Israel, M., & Jolicoeur, P. (in preparation). The Lateralized Action Potential (LAP): An event-related potential related to the direction of a simple motor movement independently of effector side.
McLeod, P. (1977). A dual task response modality effect: Support for multiprocessor models of attention. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29(4), 651–667.
Müsseler, J., Koch, I., & Wühr, P. (2005). Testing the boundary conditions for processing irrelevant location information: The cross-task Simon effect. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 17(5), 708–726. doi:10.1080/09541440540000068.
Müsseler, J., Wühr, P., & Umiltá, C. (2006). Processing of irrelevant location information under dual-task conditions. Psychological Research, 70(6), 459–467. doi:10.1007/s00426-005-0010-x.
Nicoletti, R., & Umiltà, C. (1994). Attention shifts produce spatial stimulus codes. Psychological Research, 56(3), 144–150. doi:10.1007/BF00419701.
Pashler, H. (1991). Shifting visual attention and selecting motor responses: Distinct attentional mechanisms. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 17(4), 1023–1040. doi:10.1037/0096-15188.8.131.523.
Pashler, H. (1994). Dual-task interference in simple tasks: Data and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 116(2), 220–244. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.116.2.220.
Petersen, S. E., & Posner, M. I. (2012). The attention system of the human brain: 20 years after. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 35(1), 73–89. doi:10.1146/annurev-neuro-062111-150525.
Rizzolatti, G., Riggio, L., Dascola, I., & Umiltá, C. (1987). Reorienting attention across the horizontal and vertical meridians: Evidence in favor of a premotor theory of attention. Neuropsychologia, 25(1A), 31–40. doi:10.1016/0028-3932(87)90041-8.
Rogers, R. D., & Monsell, S. (1995). Costs of a predictable switch between simple cognitive tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology General, 124(2), 207–231. doi:10.1037/0894-4184.108.40.2065.
Ruthruff, E., Van Selst, M., Johnston, J. C., & Remington, R. (2006). How does practice reduce dual-task interference: Integration, automatization, or just stage-shortening? Psychological Research, 70(2), 125–142. doi:10.1007/s00426-004-0192-7.
Schumacher, E. H., Seymour, T. L., Glass, J. M., Fencsik, D. E., Lauber, E. J., Kieras, D. E., & Meyer, D. E. (2001). Virtually perfect time sharing in dual-task performance: Uncorking the central cognitive bottleneck. Psychological Science, 12(2), 101–108. doi:10.1111/1467-9280.00318.
Simon, J. R. (1969). Reactions toward the source of stimulation. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 81(1), 174–176. doi:10.1037/h0027448.
Simon, J. R., & Rudell, A. P. (1967). Auditory S-R compatibility: The effect of an irrelevant cue on information processing. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 51(3), 300–304. doi:10.1037/h0020586.
Stelzel, C., Schumacher, E. H., Schubert, T., & D’Esposito, M. (2006). The neural effect of stimulus-response modality compatibility on dual-task performance: An fMRI study. Psychological Research, 70(6), 514–525. doi:10.1007/s00426-005-0013-7.
Stephan, D. N., & Koch, I. (2010). Central cross-talk in task switching: Evidence from manipulating input-output modality compatibility. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36(4), 1075–1081. doi:10.1037/a0019695.
Stephan, D. N., & Koch, I. (2011). The role of input-output modality compatibility in task switching. Psychological Research, 75(6), 491–498. doi:10.1007/s00426-011-0353-4.
Stephan, D. N., & Koch, I. (2015). Modality-specific effects on crosstalk in task switching: Evidence from modality compatibility using bimodal stimulation. Psychological Research,. doi:10.1007/s00426-015-0700-y.
Stoffer, T. H. (1991). Attentional focussing and spatial stimulus-response compatibility. Psychological Research, 53(2), 127–135. doi:10.1007/BF01371820.
Thomaschke, R., Hopkins, B., & Miall, R. C. (2012). The role of cue-response mapping in motorvisual impairment and facilitation: Evidence for different roles of action planning and action control in motorvisual dual-task priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 38(2), 336–349. doi:10.1037/a0024794.
Van der Lubbe, R. H. J., & Abrahamse, E. L. (2011). The premotor theory of attention and the Simon effect. Acta Psychologica, 136(2), 259–264. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2010.09.007.
Van der Lubbe, R. H. J., Abrahamse, E. L., & De Kleine, E. (2012). The premotor theory of attention as an account for the Simon effect. Acta Psychologica, 140(1), 25–34. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.01.011.
Van Der Lubbe, R. H. J., Neggers, S. F. W., Verleger, R., & Kenemans, J. L. (2006). Spatiotemporal overlap between brain activation related to saccade preparation and attentional orienting. Brain Research, 1072(1), 133–152. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2005.11.087.
Woodman, G. F., & Luck, S. J. (1999). Electrophysiological measurement of rapid shifts of attention during visual search. Nature, 400(6747), 867–869. doi:10.1038/23698.
Woodman, G. F., & Luck, S. J. (2003). Serial deployment of attention during visual search. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 29(1), 121–138. doi:10.1167/1.3.103.
Zimba, L. D., & Brito, C. F. (1995). Attention precuing and Simon effects: A test of the attention-coding account of the Simon effect. Psychological Research, 58(2), 102–118. doi:10.1007/BF00571099.
This work was supported by the Israeli Science Foundation under Grant 3/11 given to Asher Cohen. We thank the Iring Koch, Eric Ruthruff and Bernhard Hommel for their helpful comments on a prior draft of this paper. We also wish to thank Maya Inbar and Yaron Alon their assistance in running the experiments.
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they has no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Israel, M.M., Jolicoeur, P. & Cohen, A. Spatial attention across perception and action. Psychological Research 82, 255–271 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-016-0820-z