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01-07-2009 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2009 Open Access

Psychological Research 4/2009

Strategic influences on implementing instructions for future actions

Psychological Research > Uitgave 4/2009
Dorit Wenke, Robert Gaschler, Dieter Nattkemper, Peter A. Frensch


Temporal and strategic factors that might influence the transformation of verbal task rules into functional stimulus–response associations were investigated in three experiments. In a dual task paradigm of the ABBA type participants were presented new S–R instructions for the A-task at the beginning of each trial. On varying proportions of trials No-go signals rendered the instructed A-task mappings irrelevant before instruction implementation was assessed during performance of an unrelated B-task. Our results indicate that participants refrain from implementing the mappings during instruction presentation when No-go signals appear frequently and late (Exp. 2), and that they can interrupt implementing instructed S–R mappings when frequent No-go signals appear early enough during implementation (Exp. 3). When No-go signals are rare and late, however (Exp. 1), the instructed stimulus features always activate their associated responses during performance of the embedded B-task in an automatic manner. Together, these findings suggest that participants strategically control whether or not they implement verbal instructions. Once implemented, however, instructed S–R associations influence behaviour even when the instructed mappings are no longer task relevant.

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