Effects of spatial stimulus–response compatibility are often attributed to automatic position-based activation of the response elicited by a stimulus. Three experiments examined this assumption in natural scenes. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants performed simulated driving, and a person appeared periodically on either side of the road. Participants were to turn toward a person calling a taxi and away from a person carelessly entering the street. The spatially incompatible response was faster than the compatible response, but neutral stimuli showed a typical benefit for spatially compatible responses. Placing the people further in the visual periphery eliminated the advantage for the incompatible response and showed an advantage for the compatible response. In Experiment 3, participants made left–right joystick responses to a vicious dog or puppy in a walking scenario. Instructions were to avoid the vicious dog and approach the puppy or vice versa. Results again showed an advantage for the spatially incompatible response. Thus, the typically observed advantage of spatially compatible responses was reversed for dangerous situations in natural scenes.

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