Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
On-line version ISSN 1414-431X
MACHADO-PINHEIRO, W.; FARIA JR., A.J.P.; GAWRYSZEWSKI, L.G. and RIBEIRO-DO-VALLE, L.E.. Experimental context modulates warning signal effects. Braz J Med Biol Res [online]. 2004, vol.37, n.7, pp.1063-1069. ISSN 1414-431X. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0100-879X2004000700016.
Previous studies have shown that saccadic eye responses but not manual responses were sensitive to the kind of warning signal used, with visual onsets producing longer saccadic latencies compared to visual offsets. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of distinct warning signals on manual latencies and to test the premise that the onset interference, in fact, does not occur for manual responses. A second objective was to determine if the magnitude of the warning effects could be modulated by contextual procedures. Three experimental conditions based on the kind of warning signal used (visual onset, visual offset and auditory warning) were run in two different contexts (blocked and non-blocked). Eighteen participants were asked to respond to the imperative stimulus that would occur some milliseconds (0, 250, 500 or 750 ms) after the warning signal. The experiment consisted in three experimental sessions of 240 trials, where all the variables were counterbalanced. The data showed that visual onsets produced longer manual latencies than visual offsets in the non-blocked context (275 vs 261 ms; P < 0.001). This interference was obtained, however, only for short intervals between the warning and the stimulus, and was abolished when the blocked context was used (256 vs 255 ms; P = 0.789). These results are discussed in terms of bottom-up and top-down interactions, mainly those related to the role of attentional processing in canceling out competitive interactions and suppressive influences of a distractor on the relevant stimulus.
Keywords : Reaction times; Attention; Distractor; Preparation; Expectancy.