The present study examined the effect of stimulus valence on two levels of selection in the cognitive system, selection of a task-set and selection of a response. In the first experiment, participants performed a spatial compatibility task (pressing left and right key according to the locations of stimuli) in which stimulus-response mappings were determined by stimulus valence. There was a standard spatial stimulus-response compatibility (SRC) effect for positive stimuli (flowers) and a reversed SRC effect for negative stimuli (spiders), but the same data could be interpreted as showing faster responses when positive and negative stimuli were assigned to compatible and incompatible mappings, respectively, than when the assignment was opposite. Experiment 2 disentangled these interpretations, showing that valence did not influence a spatial SRC effect (Simon effect) when task-set retrieval was unnecessary. Experiments 3 and 4 replaced keypress responses with joystick deflections that afforded approach/avoidance action coding. Stimulus valence modulated the Simon effect (but did not reverse it) when the valence was task-relevant (Experiment 3) as well as when it was task-irrelevant (Experiment 4). Therefore, stimulus valence influences task-set selection and response selection, but the influence on the latter is limited to conditions where responses afford approach/avoidance action coding.
- Affective valence
- stimulus-response compatibility
- response selection
- task-set retrieval
- hierarchical control.