Computational modeling of the negative priming effect based on inhibition patterns and working memory


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Negative priming (NP), slowing down of the response for target stimuli that have been previously exposed, but ignored, has been reported in multiple psychological paradigms including the Stroop task. Although NP likely results from the interplay of selective attention, episodic memory retrieval, working memory, and inhibition mechanisms, a comprehensive theoretical account of NP is currently unavailable. This lacuna may result from the complexity of stimuli combinations in NP. Thus, we aimed to investigate the presence of different degrees of the NP effect according to prime-probe combinations within a classic Stroop task. We recorded reaction times (RTs) from 66 healthy participants during Stroop task performance and examined three different NP subtypes, defined according to the type of the Stroop probe in prime-probe pairs. Our findings show significant RT differences among NP subtypes that are putatively due to the presence of differential disinhibition, i.e., release from inhibition. Among the several potential origins for differential subtypes of NP, we investigated the involvement of selective attention and/or working memory using a parallel distributed processing (PDP) model (employing selective attention only) and a modified PDP model with working memory (PDP-WM, employing both selective attention and working memory). Our findings demonstrate that, unlike the conventional PDP model, the PDP-WM successfully simulates different levels of NP effects that closely follow the behavioral data. This outcome suggests that working memory engages in the re-accumulation of the evidence for target response and induces differential NP effects. Our computational model complements earlier efforts and may pave the road to further insights into an integrated theoretical account of complex NP effects.



negative priming, disinhibition, Stroop task, working memory, parallel distributed processing