"How many more times?" Response-effect binding via observational learning requires more than 2 trials


Repeatedly performing a movement leads to the automatic association and binding together of the underlying response codes leading to the movement and perceptual codes representing the effect of the movement. This response-effect (R-E) association is considered bidirectional in nature such that the activation of one code automatically activates the other. Research has indicated that bidirectional R-E associations are not only acquired through active action experiences, but also through observation. The current research investigated whether R-E associations could be acquired via 2 or 50 observational acquisition trials. Twenty participants completed a pre-test, acquisition phase and a post-test. The pre- and post-test were identical and consisted of 50 trials of a free-choice task in which participants could press either the right or left button following the presentation of a low or high tone. During the acquisition phase, participants observed a model executing right or left button-presses. Each button-press was followed by a specific tone to create the R-E association (high tone followed left button-press and low tone followed a right button-press). Half of the participants completed 50 acquisition trials whereas the other half completed 2 acquisition trials. The learning of R-E associations was evaluated by comparing the number of responses chosen by the participants that were compatible with the preceding tone (e.g., left button press following a high tone) that were executed in the pre- and post-test phases. Analyses revealed a significant interaction between Time (pre, post) and Group (2, 50) for frequency of compatible response choices. Participants who completed 50 acquisition trials demonstrated a preference to interact with the button that was compatible with the effect tone. Participants who completed 2 acquisition trials did not demonstrate this preference. The current study established that 50 trials are sufficient for one to establish observational R-E associations, whereas only 2 observations are not.