Verstijnen I M, Hekking B, 2006, "Eriksen's flanker task: Continuous variation in perceptual load reveals independent contributions of flanker compatibility and flanker load" Perception 35 ECVP Abstract Supplement
Eriksen's flanker task: Continuous variation in perceptual load reveals independent contributions of flanker compatibility and flanker load
I M Verstijnen, B Hekking
Lavie's (1995 Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 133 229 - 354) perceptual load theory maintains that the extent of the flanker compatibility effect (FCE) depends on the perceptual load of the target. Excess perceptual resources will be automatically directed to the flankers. This implies that the perceptual load of the flankers may then start to influence behaviour. We investigated how flanker load and flanker compatibility contribute. Stimuli consisted of targets and flankers from 4 series of figures (Verstijnen and Wagemans, 2004 Perception 33 531 - 546). Each series ranged from an unambiguous extreme (eg duck) via ambiguous intermediates (duck/rabbit) to another unambiguous extreme (rabbit). It was assumed that perceptual load coincided with ambiguity. Also by assigning different response buttons to each extreme of a series, a FCE effect should be found. In experiment 1 both target and flankers were shown for 150 ms. An increase in target load and flanker load indeed slowed down reaction times as did flanker incompatibility, the first at the expense of the latter two. Moreover, experiment 2 showed that masking the flankers after 14, 42, or 70 ms reduced the FCE effect (Schwarz and Mecklinger, 1995 Perception & Psychophysics 57 1045 - 1052), but masking did not affect the effect of target load, and interestingly so, not of flanker load either. Altogether, these experiments suggest that flanker load and flanker compatibility are independent contributors.
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