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06-08-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2016

Psychological Research 5/2016

Pushing the rules: effects and aftereffects of deliberate rule violations

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2016
Robert Wirth, Roland Pfister, Anna Foerster, Lynn Huestegge, Wilfried Kunde


Most of our daily life is organized around rules and social norms. But what makes rules so special? And what if one were to break a rule intentionally? Can we simply free us from the present set of rules or do we automatically adhere to them? How do rule violations influence subsequent behavior? To investigate the effects and aftereffects of violating simple S-R rule, we conducted three experiments that investigated continuous finger-tracking responses on an iPad. Our experiments show that rule violations are distinct from rule-based actions in both response times and movement trajectories, they take longer to initiate and execute, and their movement trajectory is heavily contorted. Data not only show differences between the two types of response (rule-based vs. violation), but also yielded a characteristic pattern of aftereffects in case of rule violations: rule violations do not trigger adaptation effects that render further rule violations less difficult, but every rule violation poses repeated effort on the agent. The study represents a first step towards understanding the signature and underlying mechanisms of deliberate rule violations, they cannot be acted out by themselves, but require the activation of the original rule first. Consequently, they are best understood as reformulations of existing rules that are not accessible on their own, but need to be constantly derived from the original rule, with an add-on that might entail an active tendency to steer away from mental representations that reflect (socially) unwanted behavior.

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