The Negative Compatibility Effect (NCE) is slower reaction times (RTs) to report the direction of a target arrow that follows a matching prime arrow. The cause has been debated, with some studies indicating perception, while others indicate a response effect. We applied the neural habituation model of Huber and O’Reilly (2003) to the NCE, explaining the varied results as reflecting changes in the timing of events. We developed a novel variant of the NCE task, specifying the perceptual dynamics of orientation priming as measured with threshold accuracy. This revealed a transition from positive to negative priming as a function of prime duration, and a second experiment ruled out response priming. The perceptual dynamics of the neural habituation model were fit to these results and the parameter values were fixed in applying the model to the NCE literature. Application of the model to RTs necessitated a response representation that accumulates response information during the trial. Our results indicate that the NCE reflects rapid perceptual priming and slower response priming. Because the accumulation of response information is slow and does not suffer from habituation, the response factor of the prime is a positive effect (lingering response information). In contrast, because perceptual activation is fast and habituates, the perceptual factor can be positive or negative priming depending on the timing of the display sequence. These factors interact with the post-prime mask, which can prime the alternative direction when the mask is a related mask created by combining arrows pointing in both directions.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience