Poster D34, Monday, March 26, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
The influence of predictability and parametrically varying conflict level on performance and cognitive control
Harrison Ritz1, Amitai Shenhav1; 1Brown University
Previous research on cognitive control has shown that behavior is sensitive to conflict on the current trial, and that the conflict and feedback experienced on that trial will influence control allocation on the subsequent trial. However, less is known about how people adapt their control when conflict gradually and predictably changes over time, partly because this requires conflict levels to vary along a continuous scale. To address this question, we developed a novel task in which participants viewed an array of moving dots and provided a (left/right) response based on the color of those dots. The (left/right) direction of motion was task-irrelevant, but was either congruent or incongruent with the correct response side. Critically, we also varied the amount of motion information (coherence), resulting in parametric variation of conflict across trials, which we varied either randomly or predictably. We found that reaction time and accuracy varied linearly with conflict level, and that this conflict effect was moderated by predictability: in predictable blocks, participants were more facilitated by congruency, but demonstrated similar incongruency effects. We observed this both when we provided participants with simultaneous motion and color information (Study 1), and when the onset of motion information preceded the onset of color information (Study 2). Interestingly, while participants adapted control based on errors and conflict experienced on previous trials, these adaptations were insensitive to the predictability of the environment. Our findings suggest that predictable changes in conflict can alter strategic allocation of attention, without necessarily increasing control.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Monitoring & inhibitory control