Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 326–335 | Cite as

Best not to bet on the horserace: A comment on Forrin and MacLeod (2017) and a relevant stimulus-response compatibility view of colour-word contingency learning asymmetries

  • James R. Schmidt


One powerfully robust method for the study of human contingency learning is the colour-word contingency learning paradigm. In this task, participants respond to the print colour of neutral words, each of which is presented most often in one colour. The contingencies between words and colours are learned, as indicated by faster and more accurate responses when words are presented in their expected colour relative to an unexpected colour. In a recent report, Forrin and MacLeod (2017b, Memory & Cognition) asked to what extent this performance (i.e., response time) measure of learning might depend on the relative speed of processing of the word and the colour. With keypress responses, learning effects were comparable when responding to the word and to the colour (contrary to predictions). However, an asymmetry appeared in a second experiment with vocal responses, with a contingency effect only present for colour identification. In a third experiment, the colour was preexposed, and contingency effects were again roughly symmetrical. In their report, they suggested that a simple speed-of-processing (or “horserace”) model might explain when contingency effects are observed in colour and word identification. In the present report, an alternative view is presented. In particular, it is argued that the results are best explained by appealing to the notion of relevant stimulus–response compatibility, which also resolves discrepancies between horserace model predictions and participant results. The article presents simulations with the Parallel Episodic Processing model to demonstrate this case.


Contingency learning Neural networks Episodic memory Speed of processing Stimulus–response compatibility 


  1. Atalay, N. B., & Misirlisoy, M. (2012). Can contingency learning alone account for item-specific control? Evidence from within- and between-language ISPC effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 38, 1578–1590.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Augustinova, M., Silvert, L., Ferrand, L., Llorca, P. M., & Flaudias, V. (2015). Behavioral and electrophysiological investigation of semantic and response conflict in the Stroop task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 543–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blais, C., & Besner, D. (2006). Reverse Stroop effects with untranslated responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 1345–1353.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Carlson, K. A., & Flowers, J. H. (1996). Intentional versus unintentional use of contingencies between perceptual events. Perception & Psychophysics, 58, 460–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cattell, J. K. (1886). The time it takes to see and name objects. Mind, 11, 63–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De Houwer, J. (2003). On the role of stimulus-response and stimulus-stimulus compatibility in the Stroop effect. Memory & Cognition, 31, 353–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. De Houwer, J. (2004). Spatial Simon effects with nonspatial responses. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 49–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dunbar, K., & MacLeod, C. M. (1984). A horse race of a different color: Stroop interference patterns with transformed words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 10, 622–639.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Dyer, F. N. (1973). The Stroop phenomenon and its use in study of perceptual, cognitive, and response processes. Memory & Cognition, 1, 106–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2017a). The influence of contingency proportion on contingency learning. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  11. Forrin, N. D., & MacLeod, C. M. (2017b). Relative speed of processing determines color-word contingency learning. Memory & Cognition.Google Scholar
  12. Fraisse, P. (1969). Why is naming longer than reading? Acta Psychologica, 30, 96–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hintzman, D. L. (1984). Minerva 2: A simulation model of human memory. Behavior Research Methods Instruments & Computers, 16, 96–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hintzman, D. L. (1986). “Schema abstraction” in a multiple-trace memory model. Psychological Review, 93, 411–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hintzman, D. L. (1988). Judgments of frequency and recognition memory in a multiple-trace memory model. Psychological Review, 95, 528–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Klein, G. S. (1964). Semantic power measured through the interference of words with color-naming. American Journal of Psychology, 77, 576–588.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Kornblum, S., Hasbroucq, T., & Osman, A. (1984). The dimensional overlap model for stimulus-response compatibility. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 22, 276–276.Google Scholar
  18. Kornblum, S., & Lee, J. W. (1995). Stimulus-response compatibility with relevant and irrelevant stimulus dimensions that do and do not overlap with the response. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 21, 855–875.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kornblum, S., Stevens, G. T., Whipple, A., & Requin, J. (1999). The effects of irrelevant stimuli: 1. 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.Google Scholar
  20. Levin, Y., & Tzelgov, J. (2016). Contingency learning is not affected by conflict experience: Evidence from a task conflict-free, item-specific Stroop paradigm. Acta Psychologica, 164, 39–45.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Lin, O. Y.-H., & MacLeod, C. M. (in press). The acquisition of simple associations as observed in color-word contingency learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.Google Scholar
  22. Logan, G. D. (1988). Toward an instance theory of automatization. Psychological Review, 95, 492–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. MacLeod, C. M. (1991). Half a century of research on the Stroop effect: An integrative review. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 163–203.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Medin, D. L., & Schaffer, M. M. (1978). Context theory of classification learning. Psychological Review, 85, 207–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Melara, R. D., & Algom, D. (2003). Driven by information: A tectonic theory of Stroop effects. Psychological Review, 110, 422–471.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Miller, J. (1987). Priming is not necessary for selective-attention failures: Semantic effects of unattended, unprimed letters. Perception & Psychophysics, 41, 419–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moors, A., Spruyt, A., & De Houwer, J. (2010). In search of a measure that qualifies as implicit: Recommendations based on a decompositional view of automaticity. In B. Gawronski & B. K. Payne (Eds.), Handbook of implicit social cognition: Measurement, theory, and applications (pp. 19–37). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  28. Mordkoff, J. T., & Halterman, R. (2008). Feature integration without visual attention: Evidence from the correlated flankers task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 385–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Morton, J., & Chambers, S. M. (1973). Selective attention to words and colors. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 25, 387–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nosofsky, R. M. (1988a). Exemplar-based accounts of relations between classification, recognition, and typicality. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14, 700–708.Google Scholar
  31. Nosofsky, R. M. (1988b). Similarity, frequency, and category representations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14, 54–65.Google Scholar
  32. Nosofsky, R. M., Little, D. R., Donkin, C., & Fific, M. (2011). Short-term memory scanning viewed as exemplar-based categorization. Psychological Review, 118, 280–315.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. Nosofsky, R. M., & Palmeri, T. J. (1997). An exemplar-based random walk model of speeded classification. Psychological Review, 104, 266–300.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Palef, S. R., & Olson, D. R. (1975). Spatial and verbal rivalry in a Stroop-like task. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 29, 201–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Risko, E. F., Schmidt, J. R., & Besner, D. (2006). Filling a gap in the semantic gradient: Color associates and response set effects in the Stroop task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 310–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schmidt, J. R. (2013a). The Parallel Episodic Processing (PEP) model: Dissociating contingency and conflict adaptation in the item-specific proportion congruent paradigm. Acta Psychologica, 142, 119–126.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Schmidt, J. R. (2013b). Temporal learning and list-level proportion congruency: Conflict adaptation or learning when to respond? PLOS ONE, 8, e0082320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schmidt, J. R. (2016a). Context-specific proportion congruent effects: An episodic learning account and computational model. Frontiers in Psychology, 7( 1806).
  39. Schmidt, J. R. (2016b). Proportion congruency and practice: A contingency learning account of asymmetric list shifting effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(9), 1496–1505.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Schmidt, J. R., & Besner, D. (2008). The Stroop effect: Why proportion congruent has nothing to do with congruency and everything to do with contingency. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 514–523.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Schmidt, J. R., & Cheesman, J. (2005). Dissociating stimulus-stimulus and response-response effects in the Stroop task. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59, 132–138.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Schmidt, J. R., Crump, M. J. C., Cheesman, J., & Besner, D. (2007). Contingency learning without awareness: Evidence for implicit control. Consciousness and Cognition, 16, 421–435.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Schmidt, J. R., & De Houwer, J. (2012a). Adding the goal to learn strengthens learning in an unintentional learning task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19, 723–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schmidt, J. R., & De Houwer, J. (2012b). Contingency learning with evaluative stimuli: Testing the generality of contingency learning in a performance paradigm. Experimental Psychology, 59, 175–182.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Schmidt, J. R., & De Houwer, J. (2012c). Does temporal contiguity moderate contingency learning in a speeded performance task? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65, 408–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schmidt, J. R., & De Houwer, J. (2012d). Learning, awareness, and instruction: Subjective contingency awareness does matter in the colour-word contingency learning paradigm. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 1754–1768.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Schmidt, J. R., & De Houwer, J. (2016a). Contingency learning tracks with stimulus-response proportion: No evidence of misprediction costs. Experimental Psychology, 63, 79–88.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Schmidt, J. R., & De Houwer, J. (2016b). Time course of colour-word contingency learning: Practice curves, pre-exposure benefits, unlearning, and relearning. Learning and Motivation, 56, 15–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schmidt, J. R., De Houwer, J., & Besner, D. (2010). Contingency learning and unlearning in the blink of an eye: A resource dependent process. Consciousness and Cognition, 19, 235–250.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Schmidt, J. R., De Houwer, J., & Liefooghe, B. (2017). Modelling the effects of instructions and goals: Perpetuation of instructed task rules in episodic memory. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  51. Schmidt, J. R., De Houwer, J., & Rothermund, K. (2016). The Parallel Episodic Processing (PEP) Model 2.0: A single computational model of stimulus-response binding, contingency learning, power curves, and mixing costs. Cognitive Psychology, 91, 82–108.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Schmidt, J. R., & Weissman, D. H. (2016). Congruency sequence effects and previous response times: Conflict adaptation or temporal learning? Psychological Research, 80, 590–607.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Simon, J. R., Craft, J. L., & Webster, J. B. (1973). Reactions toward stimulus source: Analysis of correct responses and errors over a five-day period. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 101, 175–178.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Simon, J. R., & Rudell, A. P. (1967). Auditory S-R compatibility: Effect of an irrelevant cue on information processing. Journal of Applied Psychology, 51, 300–304.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies on interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sugg, M. J., & McDonald, J. E. (1994). Time-course of inhibition in color-response and word-response versions of the Stroop task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 20, 647–675.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Virzi, R. A., & Egeth, H. E. (1985). Toward a translational model of Stroop interference. Memory & Cognition, 13, 304–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Warren, R. E. (1972). Stimulus encoding and memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 94, 90–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Zhang, H., & Kornblum, S. (1998). The effects of stimulus-response mapping and irrelevant stimulus-response and stimulus-stimulus overlap in four-choice stroop tasks with single-carrier stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 3–19.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Zhang, H., Zhang, J., & Kornblum, S. (1999). A parallel distributed processing model of stimulus-stimulus and stimulus-response compatibility. Cognitive Psychology, 38, 386–432.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental Clinical and Health PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations