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01-01-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2015

Psychological Research 1/2015

Generality and specificity in cognitive control: conflict adaptation within and across selective-attention tasks but not across selective-attention and Simon tasks

Psychological Research > Uitgave 1/2015
Antonio L. Freitas, Sheri L. Clark


To explain how cognitive control is modulated contextually, Botvinick, Braver, Barch, Carter, and Cohen (Psychol Rev 108:624–652, 2001) proposed that detecting information-processing conflict attenuates the disruptive influence of information-processing conflicts encountered subsequently, by which time appropriate cognitive-control mechanisms already will have been engaged. This conflict-adaptation hypothesis has motivated extensive programs of research while also attracting vigorous methodological critiques that highlight alternative accounts of trial n × trial n  1 sequential effects in cognitive-control tasks. Addressing those alternatives through precluding analyzing stimulus repetitions without creating any sort of confounds among any stimulus or trial characteristics, the present research observed significant conflict-adaptation effects within and across several selective-attention tasks. Moreover, across-task conflict-adaptation effects were largest when spanning tasks (i.e., a newly developed Stroop-trajectory task and a flanker task, which both require resolving conflict among stimulus elements) that presumably depend on the same mechanism of cognitive control (selective attention) than when spanning tasks that do not (i.e., the Stroop-trajectory task and a Simon task, the latter—but not former—of which requires resolving conflict between stimulus and response elements). These findings contribute to advancing beyond examining whether or not conflict adaptation exists to clarifying the conditions under which it is and is not observed.

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