The Eriksen flanker effect revisited

A F Sanders, J M Lamers
Acta Psychologica 2002, 109 (1): 41-56
Four studies are reported on the potential role of perceptual interference in a standard Eriksen flanker task. In the first study, incongruent flanker letters showed the usual effect on choice reaction time (CRT) to the target letter but had no effect on the visual fixation time (VFT) needed to distinguish target and flankers. In the second experiment, the effect of incongruent flankers was studied in the context of a same-different response in regard to the target letter and a subsequently presented single letter. The effect of incongruent flankers vanished at an interstimulus interval of 200 ms. In Experiment 3, the same-different task was used in the paradigm of the functional visual field with a target-flankers combination as stimulus on the left (SL) and a single letter as stimulus on the right side (SR) of the visual field. Flankers did neither affect VFT nor the same-different CRT suggesting that target selection may proceed during the saccade from SL to SR. In Experiment 4 effects were studied of flanker-to-target and target-to-single-letter similarity. Flanker-to-target similarity did neither affect VFT nor same-different CRT but target-to-single-letter similarity prolonged same-different CRT. Together, the results suggest parallel perceptual processing of target and flankers, followed by competition of responses to the target and to the incongruent flankers. In line with earlier research, processes of response selection and response competition appear not to be tied to VFT but to proceed in parallel with the saccade from SL to SR.

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