Sequential analysis of the numerical Stroop effect reveals response suppression.
Cohen Kadosh R., Gevers W., Notebaert W.
Automatic processing of irrelevant stimulus dimensions has been demonstrated in a variety of tasks. Previous studies have shown that conflict between relevant and irrelevant dimensions can be reduced when a feature of the irrelevant dimension is repeated. The specific level at which the automatic process is suppressed (e.g., perceptual repetition, response repetition), however, is less understood. In the current experiment we used the numerical Stroop paradigm, in which the processing of irrelevant numerical values of 2 digits interferes with the processing of their physical size, to pinpoint the precise level of the suppression. Using a sequential analysis, we dissociated perceptual repetition from response repetition of the relevant and irrelevant dimension. Our analyses of reaction times, error rates, and diffusion modeling revealed that the congruity effect is significantly reduced or even absent when the response sequence of the irrelevant dimension, rather than the numerical value or the physical size, is repeated. These results suggest that automatic activation of the irrelevant dimension is suppressed at the response level. The current results shed light on the level of interaction between numerical magnitude and physical size as well as the effect of variability of responses and stimuli on automatic processing.