Item-specific proportion congruency (ISPC) modulates, but does not generate, the backward crosstalk effect
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When both tasks in a psychological refractory period (PRP) paradigm have compatible manual responses, a compatibility benefit in RT can often be observed on Task1 performance, in apparent violation of a strict traditional response selection bottleneck model. This compatibility-based backward crosstalk effect (BCE) has been generally attributed to automatic activation of Task2 response information, in parallel with attended Task1 performance. This paper tests a potential alternative mechanism of the BCE. Item-specific proportion congruency (ISPC) effects are previously well demonstrated, where learning of associations between stimuli and task conflict (e.g., that particular Stroop items are typically incongruent) allows rapidly and automatically elicited control adjustments in performance. Similar proportion manipulations have recently been shown to modulate the BCE in dual-task performance. If participants could similarly learn associations between particular pairs of stimuli and resulting response conflict in a PRP task, this kind of mechanism could produce relative speeding versus slowing of Task1 RT on response compatible versus incompatible trials. This pattern of data directly describes the BCE, and represents a potential alternative mechanism that does not require any response crosstalk, and would reinforce a stricter view of the response selection bottleneck model, if true. Over two experiments, we demonstrate that while the BCE is sensitive to ISPC-like effects based on Task1 conflict contingencies, the BCE is insensitive to relationships between particular pairs of stimuli and associated conflict. While ISPC effects can modulate the BCE, they do not generate the BCE. These findings reinforce the current Task2 parallel response activation account of the BCE.