Distinguishing the time-and magnitude-difference accounts of the simon effect: Evidence from the reach-to-touch paradigm

Matthew Finkbeiner*, Andrew Heathcote

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A Simon effect occurs when the irrelevant spatial attributes of a stimulus conflict with choice responses based on non-spatial stimulus attributes. Many theories of the Simon effect assume that activation from task-irrelevant spatial attributes becomes available before the activation from taskrelevant attributes. We refer to this as the time-difference account. Other theories follow a magnitude-difference account, assuming activation from relevant and irrelevant attributes becomes available at the same time, but with the activation from irrelevant attributes initially being stronger. To distinguish these two accounts, we incorporated the responsesignal procedure into the reach-to-touch paradigm to map out the emergence of the Simon effect. We also used a carefully calibrated neutral condition to reveal differences in the initial onset of the influence of relevant and irrelevant information. Our results establish that irrelevant spatial information becomes available earlier than relevant non-spatial information. This finding is consistent with the time-difference account and inconsistent with the magnitude-difference account. However, we did find a magnitude effect, in the form of reduced interference from irrelevant information, for the second of a sequence of two incongruent trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)848-867
Number of pages20
JournalAttention, Perception and Psychophysics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • Attention
  • Automaticity
  • Cognitive control
  • Selective attention


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