The Dynamic Range of Response Set Activation During Action Sequencing

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We show that theories of response scheduling for sequential action can be discriminated on the basis of their predictions for the dynamic range of response set activation during sequencing, which refers to the momentary span of activation states for completed and to-be-completed actions in a response set. In particular, theories allow that future actions in a plan are partially activated, but differ with respect to the width of the range, which refers to the number of future actions that are partially activated. Similarly, theories differ on the width of the range for recently completed actions that are assumed to be rapidly deactivated or gradually deactivated in a passive fashion. We validate a new typing task for measuring momentary activation states of actions across a response set during action sequencing. Typists recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk copied a paragraph by responding to a “go” signal that usually cued the next letter but sometimes cued a near-past or future letter (n−3, −2, −1, 0, +2, +3). The activation states for producing letters across go-signal positions can be inferred from RTs and errors. In general, we found evidence of graded parallel activation for future actions and rapid deactivation of more distal past actions.

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