Rule-violations sensitise towards negative and authority-related stimuli

<p>Rule violations have usually been studied from a third-person perspective, identifying situational factors that render violations more or less likely. A first-person perspective of the agent that actively violates the rules, on the other hand, is only just beginning to emerge. Here we show that committing a rule violation sensitises towards subsequent negative stimuli as well as subsequent authority-related stimuli. In a Prime-Probe design, we used an instructed rule-violation task as the Prime and a word categorisation task as the Probe. Also, we employed a control condition that used a rule inversion task as the Prime (instead of rule violations). Probe targets were categorised faster after a violation relative to after a rule-based response if they related to either, negative valence or authority. Inversions, however, primed only negative stimuli and did not accelerate the categorisation of authority-related stimuli. A heightened sensitivity towards authority-related targets thus seems to be specific to rule violations. A control experiment showed that these effects cannot be explained in terms of semantic priming. Therefore, we propose that rule violations necessarily activate authority-related representations that make rule violations qualitatively different from simple rule inversions.</p>