The role of executive control in the activation of manual affordances
We investigated the role of executive control processes in the activation of manual affordances in two experiments combining stimulus–response compatibility (SRC) and dual-task paradigms. We registered an inverse SRC effect in the presence of a parallel backward-counting task in Experiment 1, and a cancellation of the SRC effect in Experiment 2 when a parallel Stroop-like task was used. We interpret our data as supporting a self-inhibition account of the affordance activation control. Accordingly, the role of executive processes is to prevent self-inhibition in supraliminal conditions: when cognitive resources are depleted by a parallel task, the self-inhibition mechanism becomes active and irrelevantly potentiated affordances are inhibited, leading to the emergence of an inverse SRC effect. In addition, the difference between data patterns observed in the two experiments suggests that the exact roles of the executive processes involved during the activation of affordances may differ. The results suggest a mechanism for action-related activation monitoring based on a flexible control over automatically potentiated actions. The paper discusses the proposed mechanism in detail and outlines further research directions.