The concealed information test (CIT) presents various probe (familiar) items amidst irrelevant (unfamiliar) items. When the probe items appear, reaction time (RT) slows down. This RT-CIT effect has been accounted for by a conflict resulting from the need to deny familiarity of the familiar probes. The present pre-registered study (n = 292) examined whether response conflict is sufficient to account for the RT-CIT effect, using city and name items. Specifically, we compared the common conflict condition, where the response buttons emphasized familiarity of CIT items (“unfamiliar” versus “familiar”), to a novel no conflict condition, where the buttons emphasized categorical membership (“city” versus “name”). In line with our expectations, the RT-CIT effect was substantially stronger in the conflict condition; yet, it remained significant even in the no conflict condition. This implies a critical role for response conflict, but also suggests that other mechanisms (e.g. orientation to significant stimuli) may contribute to the RT-CIT effect.
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