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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00040

Target-Response Associations Can Produce Response-Congruency Effects Without Task-Switching Costs

 Bingxin Li1,  Xiangqian Li2*, Xuhong Liu1,  Martin Lages1 and Gijsbert Stoet3
  • 1School of Psychology, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
  • 2School of Social Development and Public Policy, Fudan University, China
  • 3School of Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom

In task-switching experiments with bivalent target stimuli, conflicts during response selection give rise to response-congruency effects. Typically, participants respond more slowly and make more errors in trials with incongruent targets that require different responses in the two tasks, compared to trials with congruent targets that are associated with the same response in both tasks. Here we investigate whether participants show response-congruency effects when task rules are not made explicit. In two experiments, we assigned a task-irrelevant feature to each bivalent target. When participants were instructed to apply the task rules, they showed significant task-switching costs as well as response-congruency effects. Importantly, when the same participants did not know the task rules and responded without applying the task rules, they showed response-congruency effects but no switch costs. The significant congruency effects suggest that associations between bivalent target features and responses can be formed passively, even when participants do not follow the task rules and use task-irrelevant target features to make a response.

Keywords: task-switching, bivalent stimuli, target-response association, task-switching cost, Congruency effect

Received: 13 Nov 2018; Accepted: 08 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Jim Grange, Keele University, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Miriam Gade, Medical School Berlin, Germany
Stefanie Schuch, RWTH Aachen Universität, Germany  

Copyright: © 2019 Li, Li, Liu, Lages and Stoet. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Xiangqian Li, Fudan University, School of Social Development and Public Policy, Shanghai, 200433, Shanghai Municipality, China, x.li.3@research.gla.ac.uk