Borragan, G., Urbain, C., Schmitz, R., Mary, A., & Peigneux, P. (2015). Sleep and memory consolidation: motor performance and proactive interference effects in sequence learning. Brain Cogn, 95, 54-61
That post-training sleep supports the consolidation of sequential motor skills remains debated. Performance improvement and sensitivity to proactive interference are both putative measures of long-term memory consolidation. We tested sleep-dependent memory consolidation for visuo-motor sequence learning using a proactive interference paradigm. Thirty-three young adults were trained on sequence A on Day 1, then had Regular Sleep (RS) or were Sleep Deprived (SD) on the night after learning. After two recovery nights, they were tested on the same sequence A, then had to learn a novel, potentially competing sequence B. We hypothesized that proactive interference effects on sequence B due to the prior learning of sequence A would be higher in the RS condition, considering that proactive interference is an indirect marker of the robustness of sequence A, which should be better consolidated over post-training sleep. Results highlighted sleep-dependent improvement for sequence A, with faster RTs overnight for RS participants only. Moreover, the beneficial impact of sleep was specific to the consolidation of motor but not sequential skills. Proactive interference effects on learning a new material at Day 4 were similar between RS and SD participants. These results suggest that post-training sleep contributes to optimizing motor but not sequential components of performance in visuo-motor sequence learning.
Sidarus, N., Vuorre, M., Metcalfe, J., & Haggard, P. (2017). Investigating the prospective sense of agency: Effects of processing fluency, stimulus ambiguity, and response conflict. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 545. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00545
How do we know how much control we have over our environment? The sense of agency refers to the feeling that we are in control of our actions, and that, through them, we can control our external environment. Thus, agency clearly involves matching intentions, actions and outcomes. The present studies investigated the possibility that processes of action selection, i.e. choosing what action to make, contribute to the sense of agency. Since selection of action necessarily precedes execution of action, such effects must be prospective. In contrast, most literature on sense of agency has focussed on the retrospective computation whether an outcome fits the action performed or intended. This hypothesis was tested in an ecologically rich, dynamic task based on a computer game. Across three experiments, we manipulated three different aspects of action selection processing: visual processing fluency, categorisation ambiguity, and response conflict. Additionally, we measured the relative contributions of prospective, action selection-based cues, and retrospective, outcome-based cues to the sense of agency. Manipulations of action selection were orthogonally combined with discrepancy of visual feedback of action. Fluency of action selection had a small but reliable effect on the sense of agency. Additionally, as expected, sense of agency was strongly reduced when visual feedback was discrepant with the action performed. The effects of discrepant feedback were larger than the effects of action selection fluency, and sometimes suppressed them. The sense of agency is highly sensitive to disruptions of action-outcome relations. However, when motor control is successful, and action-outcome relations are as predicted, fluency or dysfluency of action selection provides an important prospective cue to the sense of agency.
Sidarus, N., Vuorre, M., & Haggard, P. (2017). Integrating prospective and retrospective cues to the sense of agency: a multi-study investigation. Neuroscience of Consciousness, 2017(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1093/nc/nix012
Sense of agency (SoA) refers to the experience of voluntary control over one’s own actions, and, through them, over events in the outside world. Recent accounts suggest that SoA involves an integration of various cues. These include prospective cues, for example, related to the fluency of action selection, and retrospective cues, linked to outcome monitoring. It remains unclear whether these cues may have independent effects on SoA, and, in particular, how their relative contributions may change during instrumental learning. In the present study, we explored these issues by conducting a multi-study analysis of seven published and unpublished studies on the role of prospective cues to the SoA. Our main question was how the effects of selection fluency on SoA might change as information about action–outcome contingencies is gathered. Results show that selection fluency can have a general and consistent influence on the SoA, independent of outcome monitoring. This suggests selection fluency is used as a heuristic cue, to prospectively inform our SoA. In addition, our results show that the influence of selection fluency on SoA may change systematically as action–outcome contingencies are gradually learned. We speculate that dysfluent selection may impair formation of mental associations between action and outcome.
Sidarus, N., Vuorre, M., & Haggard, P. (2017). How action selection influences the sense of agency: An ERP study. NeuroImage, 150, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.02.015
Sense of agency (SoA) refers to the feeling that we are in control of our actions and, through them, of events in the outside world. One influential view claims that the SoA depends on retrospectively matching the expected and actual outcomes of action. However, recent studies have revealed an additional, prospective component to SoA, driven by action selection processes. We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to clarify the neural mechanisms underlying prospective agency. Subliminal priming was used to manipulate the fluency of selecting a left or right hand action in response to a supraliminal target. These actions were followed by one of several coloured circles, after a variable delay. Participants then rated their degree of control over this visual outcome. Incompatible priming impaired action selection, and reduced sense of agency over action outcomes, relative to compatible priming. More negative ERPs immediately after the action, linked to post-decisional action monitoring, were associated with reduced agency ratings over action outcomes. Additionally, feedback-related negativity evoked by the outcome was also associated with reduced agency ratings. These ERP components may reflect brain processes underlying prospective and retrospective components of sense of agency respectively.
Sidarus, N., Chambon, V. & Haggard, P. 2013 Priming of actions increases sense of control over unexpected outcomes. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 1403–1411.
Sense of agency (SoA) refers to the feeling that we are in control of our own actions and, through them, events in the outside world. SoA depends partly on retrospectively matching outcomes to expectations, and partly on prospective processes occurring prior to action, notably action selection.
To assess the relative contribution of these processes, we factorially varied subliminal priming of action selection and expectation of action outcomes. Both factors affected SoA, and there was also a significant interaction. Compatible action primes increased SoA more strongly for unexpected than expected outcomes. Outcome expectation had strong effects on SoA following incompatible action priming, but only weak effects following compatible action priming. Prospective and retrospective SoA may have distinct and complementary functions.
Sidarus, N., & Haggard, P. (2016). Difficult action decisions reduce the sense of agency: A study using the Eriksen flanker task. Acta Psychologica, 166, 1–11.
The sense of agency refers to the feeling that we are in control of our actions and, through them, of events in the outside world. Much research has focused on the importance of retrospectively matching predicted and actual action outcomes for a strong sense of agency. Yet, recent studies have revealed that a metacognitive signal about the fluency of action selection can prospectively inform our sense of agency. Fluent, or easy, action selection leads to a stronger sense of agency over action outcomes than dysfluent, or difficult, selection. Since these studies used subliminal priming to manipulate action selection, it remained unclear whether supraliminal stimuli affecting action selection would have similar effects.
We used supraliminal flankers to manipulate action selection in response to a central target. Experiment 1 revealed that conflict in action selection, induced by incongruent flankers and targets, led to reduced agency ratings over an outcome that followed the participant's response, relative to neutral and congruent flanking conditions. Experiment 2 replicated this result, and extended it to free choice between alternative actions. Finally, Experiment 3 varied the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between flankers and target. Action selection performance varied with SOA. Agency ratings were always lower in incongruent than congruent trials, and this effect did not vary across SOAs. Sense of agency is influenced by a signal that tracks conflict in action selection, regardless of the visibility of stimuli inducing conflict, and even when the timing of the stimuli means that the conflict may not affect performance.
Blocking is the most important phenomenon in the history of associative learning theory: For over 40 years, blocking has inspired a whole generation of learning models. Blocking is part of a family of effects that are typically termed “cue competition” effects. Common amongst all cue competition effects is that a cue-outcome relation is poorly learned or poorly expressed because the cue is trained in the presence of an alternative predictor or cause of the outcome. We provide an overview of the cognitive processes involved in cue competition effects in humans and propose a stage framework that brings these processes together. The framework contends that the behavioral display of cue competition is cognitively construed following three stages that include (1) an encoding stage, (2) a retention stage, and (3) a performance stage. We argue that the stage framework supports a comprehensive understanding of cue competition effects.
Scheveneels, S., Boddez, Y., & Hermans, D. (accepted for publication). Learning mechanisms in fear and anxiety: It is still not what you think it is. In B. Olatunji (Ed.). The Cambridge Handbook of Anxiety and Related Disorders.
Scheveneels S., Boddez Y., Vervliet B., Hermans D. (2016). The validity of laboratory-based treatment research: Bridging the gap between fear extinction and exposure treatment. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 86, 87-94.
Scheveneels S., Boddez Y., Bennett M., Hermans D. (2017). One for all: The effect of extinction stimulus typicality on return of fear. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 57, 37-44.
Atas, A., Vermeiren, A., & Cleeremans, A. (2013). Repeating a strongly masked stimulus increases priming and awareness. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 1422-1430.
Previous studies [Marcel, A. J. (1983). Conscious and unconscious perception: Experiments on visual masking and word recognition. Cognitive Psychology, 15(2), 197–237; Wentura, D., & Frings, C. (2005). Repeated masked category primes interfere with related exemplars: New evidence for negative semantic priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31(1), 108–120] suggested that repeatedly presenting a masked stimulus improves priming without increasing perceptual awareness. However, neural the- ories of consciousness predict the opposite: Increasing bottom-up strength in such a par- adigm should also result in increasing availability to awareness. Here, we tested this prediction by manipulating the number of repetitions of a strongly masked digit. Our results do not replicate the dissociation observed in previous studies and are instead sug- gestive that repeating an unconscious and attended masked stimulus enables the progres- sive emergence of perceptual awareness.
Mertens, G., & De Houwer, J. (2016). Potentiation of the startle reflex is in line with contingency reversal instructions rather than the conditioning history. Biological Psychology, 113, 91-99.
In the context of fear conditioning, different psychophysiological measures have been related to different learning processes. Specifically, skin conductance responses (SCRs) have been related to cognitive expectancy learning, while fear potentiated startle (FPS) has been proposed to reflect affective learning that operates according to simple associative learning principles. On the basis of this two level account of fear conditioning we predicted that FPS should be less affected by verbal instructions and more affected by direct experience than SCRs. We tested this hypothesis by informing participants that contingencies would be reversed after a differential conditioning phase. Our results indicate that contingency reversal instructions led to an immediate and complete reversal of FPS regardless of the previous conditioning history. This change was accompanied by similar changes on US expectancy ratings and SCRs. These results conform with an expectancy model of fear conditioning but argue against a two level account of fear conditioning.
Doyen, S., Klein, O., Simons, D.J., & Cleeremans, A. (in press). On the other side of the mirror: Priming in cognitive and social psychology. Social Cognition.
Over the past several years, two largely separate traditions have collided, leading to controversy over claims about priming. We describe and contrast the main accounts of priming effects in cognitive and social psychology, focusing especially on the role of awareness. In so doing, we consider one of the core points of contention, claims about the effects of subliminal priming. Whereas cognitive psychologists often are interested in exploring how priming operates with and without awareness, social psychologists more commonly assume subliminality in order to bolster claims about the automaticity of priming. We discuss the criteria necessary to claim that a stimulus was processed entirely without awareness, noting the challenges in meeting those criteria. Finally, we identify three sources of conflict between the fields: awareness, replicability, and the nature of the underlying processes. We close by proposing resolutions for each of them.