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14-09-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2017

Psychological Research 5/2017

Anticipation of delayed action-effects: learning when an effect occurs, without knowing what this effect will be

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2017
Auteurs:
David Dignath, Markus Janczyk

Abstract

According to the ideomotor principle, behavior is controlled via a retrieval of the sensory consequences that will follow from the respective movement (“action-effects”). These consequences include not only what will happen, but also when something will happen. In fact, recollecting the temporal duration between response and effect takes time and prolongs the initiation of the response. We investigated the associative structure of action-effect learning with delayed effects and asked whether participants acquire integrated action-time-effect episodes that comprise a compound of all three elements or whether they acquire separate traces that connect actions to the time until an effect occurs and actions to the effects that follow them. In three experiments, results showed that participants retrieve temporal intervals that follow from their actions even when the identity of the effect could not be learned. Furthermore, retrieval of temporal intervals in isolation was not inferior to retrieval of temporal intervals that were consistently followed by predictable action-effects. More specifically, when tested under extinction, retrieval of action-time and action-identity associations seems to compete against each other, similar to overshadowing effects reported for stimulus–response conditioning. Together, these results suggest that people anticipate when the consequences of their action will occur, independently from what the consequences will be.

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