How Social and Refractory Is the Social Psychological Refractory Period?

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The social psychological refractory period (PRP) effect refers to an increase in RT to the second of two successive stimuli when another person responds to the first stimulus (shared dual-task condition) rather than when a single person responds to both stimuli (individual dual-task condition). We investigated (a) whether a social PRP effect would occur without explicit instruction concerning task priority and (b) whether there are crosstalk effects in the shared dual-task situation. We observed a strong PRP effect together with a small crosstalk effect in the individual dual-task condition, but in the shared dual-task condition both effects were absent. These findings suggest that the explicit instruction to perform responses in a fixed order is necessary to obtain the social PRP effect. In the individual dual-task condition, sequential processing can be seen as a means to reduce or prevent crosstalk effects, which is not necessary in the shared dual-task condition.

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