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Response force in RT tasks: Isolating effects of stimulus probability and response probability

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Mattes, UIrich, and Miller (1997) found that as response probability decreases in a simple reaction time (RT) task, participants produce more forceful responses as well as longer RTs, suggesting a direct influence of preparatory processes on the motor system. In this previous study, however, response probability was confounded with stimulus probability, leaving open the possibility that response force was sensitive to stimulus- rather than response-related preparation. The present study was conducted to unravel the effects of stimulus and response probability. Experiment 1 manipulated stimulus probability and revealed that responses to a more probable stimulus are less forceful than responses to a less probable stimulus even when both stimuli require the same response. Experiment 2 demonstrated that this stimulus probability effect does not depend on the overall level of response probability. Experiment 3 showed an analogous effect for response probability when stimulus probability is kept constant. The complete pattern of results suggests that both stimulus probability and response probability affect the forcefulness of a response. It is argued that response probability exerts adirect influence on the motor system, whereas stimulus probability influences the motor system indirectly via premotoric adjustments.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-05-01

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