2023 90 SBE

Stimulus-Elicited Involuntary Cognitions: Response Conflict, Habituation, and Word-Frequency Effects

By: Natalie Wieczorek, Jamie Bueno, Sarah Brauer, Zaviera Panlilio, Anthony Velasquez

Department: Psychology

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Ezequiel Morsella

Researchers have begun to investigate the subjective effects (e.g., urges, mental imagery) elicited in response interference paradigms such as the Stroop and Eriksen flanker tasks. In these tasks, trial-by-trial “urges to err” (8-point scale) are strongest during trials featuring response conflict. We conducted a secondary analysis on the urges-to-err from a variant of the flanker task (n = 20) having both response conflict and conditional discriminations. A simple discrimination would be “press the red button when you hear a beep.” Conditional discrimination would be “press the red button only if you hear a beep AND see a flashing light.” Urges were stronger for conditional discriminations (M = 2.74 ms, SD = 1.61) than simple discriminations (M = 2.31 ms, SD = 2.93), F(1, 19) = 13.95, p < .001. We also developed task variants in which Stimulus X = Response A, and Stimulus Y = Response B, but the co-presence X and Y must yield Response C. Distractor stimuli can activate, not only urges but mental imagery (subvocalizations). Participants (n = 47) were presented with pairs of line drawings (e.g., DOOR and KITE) and instructed not to think of the name of any of the two objects. Subvocalizations were more likely for high-frequency names (e.g., DOOR, M = .81) than low-frequency names (e.g., KITE, M = .73), p < .001. We investigated whether these effects can habituate. These tasks, requiring only a button press on the part of the subject, are amenable to neuroimaging.