Examination of a Response–Effect Compatibility Task With Continuous Mouse Movements: Free-Versus Forced-Choice Tasks and Sequential Modulations

Carolin Schonard, Robert W. Proctor, Aiping Xiong, Markus Janczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


According to ideomotor theory, we select actions by recalling and anticipating their sensory consequences, that is, their action effects. Compelling evidence for this theory comes from response–effect compatibility (REC) experiments, in which a response produces an effect with which it is either compatible or incompatible. For example, pressing a left/right response key is faster if it is predictably followed by an action effect on the same, compatible side compared with the other, incompatible side, even though the effect itself appears only after response time is measured. Recent studies investigated this effect with continuous responses (i.e., computer mouse movements) and reported an REC effect in a forced-choice but not in a free-choice task. From the key-pressing literature, the opposite result pattern or no differences would have been expected. To clarify this issue, we report 3 experiments with mouse movement responses. Experiment 1 used a simpler scenario than in prior studies and found a similar result: The REC effect was evident in a forced but not in a free-choice task. Also, sequential modulations of the REC effect were exploratorily analyzed and replicated with higher power in Experiment 2. However, Experiment 3 demonstrated that at least part of the REC effect with mouse movements can be attributed to stimulus–response compatibility (SRC), with a much smaller compatibility effect evident with a procedure for which SRC was reduced. We conclude that a sequentially modulated compatibility effect can be observed with mouse movements, but previous studies may have underestimated the contribution from SRC. The results are also discussed in terms of why the compatibility effect was observed in forced but not free-choice tasks with mouse movement responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-439
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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