Telling a consistent lie across multiple occasions poses severe demands on memory. Two cognitive mechanisms aid with overcoming this difficulty: Associations between a question and its corresponding response and associations between a question and its previous intentional context (in this case: honest vs. dishonest responding). Here, we assessed whether intentional contexts (e.g., lying vs. truth-telling) could modulate the retrieval of stimulus-response (S-R) associations. In an item-specific priming paradigm, participants classified stimuli either honestly or dishonestly during a prime and a later probe. The results of three experiments yielded automatic retrieval of the previously primed motor responses (for both honest and dishonest responses) only when the intentional context repeated but not when it switched. These findings indicate interdependent associations between a stimulus, its intentional context, and the corresponding response, allowing for flexible, context-specific retrieval. Thus, humans benefit from prior learning history without incurring costs when the intentional context changes. This finding implies top-down control over the retrieval of S-R associations and provides new insights into the mechanisms of associative learning.
The stimuli used in this task were collected by other researchers and I may not openly share them. If you are interested in the exact stimulus set, please contact me.
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