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01-09-2012 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2012

Psychological Research 5/2012

Sequential congruency effects: disentangling priming and conflict adaptation

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2012
Olga Puccioni, Antonino Vallesi


Responding to the color of a word is slower and less accurate if the word refers to a different color (incongruent condition) than if it refers to the same color (congruent condition). This phenomenon, known as the Stroop effect, is modulated by sequential effects: it is bigger when the current trial is preceded by a congruent condition than by an incongruent one in the previous trial. Whether this phenomenon is due to priming mechanisms or to cognitive control is still debated. To disentangle the contribution of priming with respect to conflict adaptation mechanisms in determining sequential effects, two experiments were designed here with a four-alternative forced choice (4-AFC) Stroop task: in the first one only trials with complete alternations of features were used, while in the second experiment all possible types of repetitions were presented. Both response times (RTs) and errors were evaluated. Conflict adaptation effects on RTs were limited to congruent trials and were exclusively due to priming: they disappeared in the priming-free experiment and, in the second experiment, they occurred in sequences with feature repetitions but not in complete alternation sequences. Error results, instead, support the presence of conflict adaptation effects in incongruent trials. In priming-free sequences (Experiment 1 and complete alternation sequences of Experiment 2) with incongruent previous trials there was no error Stroop effect, while this effect was significant with congruent previous trials. These results indicate that cognitive control may modulate performance above and beyond priming effects.

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