Sellaro, Roberta and Treccani, Barbara and Rubichi, Sandro and Cubelli, Roberto (2013) When co-action eliminates the Simon effect: disentangling the impact of co-actor's presence and task sharing on joint-task performance. Frontiers in psychology, Vol. 4 , Article 844. eISSN 1664-1078. Article.
This study aimed at assessing whether the mere belief of performing a task with another person, who is in charge of the complementary part of the task, is sufficient for the so-called joint Simon effect to occur. In all three experiments of the study, participants sat alone in a room and underwent two consecutive Go/NoGo tasks that were identical except for the instructions. In Experiment 1, participants performed the task first individually (baseline task), and then either co-acting with another person who responded from an unknown location to the NoGo stimuli (joint task) or imaging themselves responding to the NoGo stimuli (imaginative task). Relative to the baseline, the instructions of the imaginative task made the Simon effect occur, while those of the joint task were ineffective in eliciting the effect. This result suggests that sharing a task with a person who is known to be in charge of the complementary task, but is not physically present, is not sufficient to induce the representation of an alternative response able to produce interference, which happens instead when the instructions explicitly require to imagine such a response. Interestingly, we observed that when the Simon effect was already present in the baseline task (i.e., when the response alternative to the Go response was represented in the individual task due to non-social factors), it disappeared in the joint task. We propose that, when no information about the co-actor's position is available, the division of labor between the participant and co-actor allows participants to filter out the possible (incidental) representation of the alternative response from their task representation, thus eliminating potential sources of interference. This account is supported by the results of Experiments 2 and 3 and suggests that under certain circumstances task-sharing may reduce the interference produced by the irrelevant information, rather than increase it.
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