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07-11-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2018

Psychological Research 2/2018

The test of both worlds: identifying feature binding and control processes in congruency sequence tasks by means of action dynamics

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2018
Stefan Scherbaum, Simon Frisch, Maja Dshemuchadse, Matthias Rudolf, Rico Fischer
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s00426-016-0823-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
A correction to this article is available online at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-020-01303-6.


Cognitive control processes enable us to act flexibly in a world posing ever-changing demands on our cognitive system. To study cognitive control, conflict tasks and especially congruency sequence effects have been regarded as a fruitful tool. However, for the last decade a dispute has arisen whether or not congruency sequence effects are indeed a valid measure of cognitive control processes. This debate has led to the development of increasingly complex paradigms involving numerous, intricately designed experimental conditions which are aimed at excluding low-level, associative learning mechanisms like feature binding as an alternative explanation for the emergence of congruency sequence effects. Here, we try to go beyond this all-or-nothing thinking by investigating the assumption that both cognitive control processes as well as feature binding mechanisms occur within trials of the same task. Based on a theoretical dual-route-model of behavior under conflict, we show that both classes of cognitive mechanisms should affect behavior at different points of the decision process. By comparing these predictions to continuous mouse movements from an adapted Simon task, we find evidence that control processes and feature binding mechanisms do indeed coexist within the task but that they follow distinct timing patterns. We argue that this dynamic approach to cognitive processing opens up new ways to investigate the diversity of co-existing processes that contribute to the selection of behavior.

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