Motor Coactivation Revealed by Response Force in Divided and Focused Attention

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Four experiments examined effects of bimodal stimulation on response force (RF) in addition to reaction time (RT). In a divided-attention task (Experiments 1 to 3), subjects were asked for a speeded response to either a visual or an auditory signal. In unimodal signal trials, either a visual or an auditory signal was presented alone, and in redundant-signals trials, both signals were presented simultaneously. The same stimulus arrangement was used in a focused-attention task (Experiment 4), but subjects had to withhold their response when an auditory signal was presented alone. In all experiments, the fastest RTs were attained in redundant-signals trials. In addition, RF was largest in redundant-signals trials, especially in the divided-attention task, suggesting a motor coactivation hypothesis. The results indicate that the type of stimulation influences not only when a response is initiated but also how the response is executed. This finding challenges the view, commonly held in mental chronometry, that late motoric processes remain untouched by experimental manipulations. A detailed analysis of the relationship between RT and RF revealed that these variables are not inherently redundant measures, and, therefore, RF recording may supplement the traditional RT measurement in mental chronometry.

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