Practice and transfer with mappings of spoon tip and handle to keypress responses

Yaqi Xu, Aiping Xiong, Robert W. Proctor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


When orientation of a horizontal spoon image varies to the left or right, instructions can map left and right keypresses to the tip or handle location. We conducted Experiment 1 to determine whether practice with an incompatible mapping of the salient tip transfers to a test session in which the relevant part and/or mapping are changed. Participants performed 80 practice trials with tip-incompatible mapping, followed by 80 test trials with tip-compatible, tip-incompatible, handle-compatible, or handle-incompatible mapping. Performance improved across 20-trial blocks in the practice session. In the test session, responses were 65 ms faster with tip-compatible than tip-incompatible mapping but 31 ms faster with handle-incompatible than handle-compatible mapping. This latter result, and verbal reports, indicate that some participants adopted a strategy of responding compatibly to the salient tip even though instructed to respond to the handle. Experiment 2 focused on whether participants with handle-incompatible mapping instructions would adopt the tip-compatible strategy spontaneously or after receiving a hint: 77% of participants reported adopting the tip-compatible strategy in Session 1, showing that prior experience responding to the tip is not necessary and 9% of participants did not report using that strategy in Session 1 but reported changing to it in Session 2 after receiving the hint. Their responses in Session 2 were slower than those who used the strategy throughout, but this difference was minimal in the last two trial blocks. Compatible mapping of the salient spoon tip to keypresses dominated performance over prior practice with incompatible tip mapping and instructions with incompatible handle mapping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-906
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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