Associative Learning from Verbal Action-Effect Instructions: A Replication and Investigation of Underlying Mechanisms
According to the ideomotor principle, repeated experience with an action and its perceivable consequences (effects) establish action-effect associations. Research on verbal instructions indicates that such associations are also acquired from verbal information. In the present experiment (N = 651), first, we aimed to replicate unintentional response-priming effects from verbal action-effect instructions (direct replication; Condition 1). Second, we investigated the involvement of perceptual processes in the verbally induced response-priming effect by perceptually presenting (Condition 1) versus not presenting (Condition 2) the color that was subsequently named as an effect in the instructions. Third, we tested a saliency-based explanation of the verbally induced response-priming effect by highlighting all components (action and effect) without an association between them (Condition 3). Overall, we found the predicted response-priming effect following verbal action-effect instructions (overall conditions and in the replication Condition 1). Condition 2, which did not include perceptual information in the instructions, still showed a significant response-priming effect but was descriptively weaker compared to the effect of the replication Condition 1. Condition 3, which merely highlighted the action and effect component without endorsing an association, did not show a significant effect. In sum, our study provides further solid evidence that verbal instructions lead to unintentional response-priming effects. Other conclusions must be considered preliminary: The between-condition comparisons were descriptively in the predicted direction—perceptual aspects are relevant, and a saliency-based account can be excluded—but the differences in accuracy between conditions were not statistically significant.