Proximal and Distal Effects in Action Representation
Gallimore, Jonathan Mark
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The current study examined whether an action plan based on stimulus discrimination can be represented by action features corresponding to the perceptual effects of an action (distal features) - when both proximal features (action features corresponding to the motor movements of an action) and distal features were available. And if so, can an action plan represented by distal features reside in a similar cognitive domain as an action plan represented by proximal features. A partial repetition paradigm was used to determine if proximal and distal features were represented in a similar cognitive domain. Past research has found that when two action plans share an action feature (partial feature overlap), the intervening action can be delayed (a partial repetition cost) compared to when they do not share an action feature (no feature overlap). In each experiment, the manipulated factor was feature overlap (partial feature overlap or no feature overlap). Across experiments, the manipulated factor was spatial compatibility of proximal and distal features [i.e., these features were spatially compatible (Experiment 2) or spatially incompatible (Experiment 3)]. Results showed that when the action maintained in memory (Action A) could be represented by only proximal features (Experiment 1) or spatially compatible proximal and distal features (Experiment 2), partial repetition costs were observed. However when Action A could be represented by spatially incompatible proximal and distal features (Experiment 3), no partial repetition costs were observed. When debriefed, most participants explicitly represented Action A with proximal features but the spatially incompatible distal features (implicitly) influenced the representation of Action A. Taken together, these results suggest that an action plan based on stimulus discrimination can be represented by proximal features (explicitly) and distal features (implicitly) when both features were available and these features were represented in a similar cognitive domain. Therefore, explicit and implicit memory can prime each other to influence action selection. It is possible that ideomotor learning is an implicit (automatic) process that represents an action with the anticipated perceptual effects of the action, and sensorimotor learning is an explicit (controlled) process that represents an action with the motor movements of the action.