Flanker and negative flanker effects in letter identification

Jeffrey N Rouder, Jonathan W King
Perception & Psychophysics 2003, 65 (2): 287-97
In a speeded choice reaction time task, responses to centrally presented letter targets can be altered by the identity of surrounding task-irrelevant letters (flankers). In the standard flanker effect, flankers associated with the same response as the target lead to faster and more accurate responses, whereas flankers associated with a different response lead to slower and more error-prone responses. B. A. Eriksen and C. W. Eriksen (1974, pp. 143-149) have argued that these flanker effects occur through response competition. We present data from a novel version of the Eriksen task, in which some targets and flankers consist of letter forms that are morphed versions of target letters. In this paradigm, flankers induce classic flanker effects on well-formed targets. But flankers induce an opposite effect, termed a negative flanker effect on morphed letter targets. For example, targets that are morphs between the letters "A" and "H" are more likely to be identified as an "A" when flanked by an "H." The interpretation advanced here is that there are two distinct kinds of flanker effects contrast enhancement in perceptual processes and response competition in response selection processes.

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