Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1300–1309 | Cite as

Automatic motor activation by mere instruction

  • Tom EveraertEmail author
  • Marijke Theeuwes
  • Baptist Liefooghe
  • Jan De Houwer


Previous behavioral studies have shown that instructions about stimulus–response (S-R) mappings can influence task performance even when these instructions are irrelevant for the current task. In the present study, we tested whether automatic effects of S–R instructions occur because the instructed stimuli automatically activate their corresponding responses. We registered the lateralized readiness potentials (LRPs) that were evoked by the instructed stimuli while participants were performing a task for which those mappings were irrelevant. Instructed S–R mappings clearly affected task performance in electrophysiological and behavioral measures. The LRP was found to deflect in the direction of the response tendency that corresponded with the instructed S–R mapping. Early activation of the instructed response was observed but occurred predominantly on slow trials. In contrast, response conflict evoked by instructed S–R mappings did not modulate the N2 amplitude. The results strongly suggest that, like experienced S–R mappings, instructed S–R mappings can lead to automatic response activation, but possibly via a different route.


Learning Instruction Erp Cognitive control Working memory 



Preparation of this article was supported by Grant BOF/GOA2006/001 and Grant BOF09/01 M00209 from Ghent University. We would like to thank Helen Tibboel for her valuable assistance in collecting data during this study.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Everaert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marijke Theeuwes
    • 1
  • Baptist Liefooghe
    • 1
  • Jan De Houwer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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