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Is conflict adaptation triggered by feature repetitions? An unexpected finding

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

For decades, cognitive adaptation to response conflict has been considered to be the hallmark of cognitive control. Notwithstanding a vast amount of evidence ruling out low-level interpretations of these findings, disbelief still exists with regard to the underlying cause of the observed effects. Especially when considering cognitive adaptation to unconscious conflict, it is still a matter of debate whether repetitions of features between trials might explain this intriguing finding rather than the involvement of unconscious control. To this purpose, we conducted two masked priming experiments in which four different responses to four different stimuli were required. This allowed us to completely eliminate repetitions of prime and target over consecutive trials. Independent of whether conflicting information was presented clearly visible or almost imperceptible, the results showed an unexpected pattern. Contrary to the regular congruency sequence effect (CSE; i.e., classic Gratton effect), in both experiments the congruency effect increased following incongruent trials. Interestingly, this reversed effect completely disappeared when we eliminated all trials with feature repetitions from the analysis. A third experiment, in which feature repetitions were excluded a priori, showed a small but regular CSE in the error rates only. Given that feature repetitions are theoretically thought to create a regular CSE, our results are not in line with an interpretation in terms of feature repetitions nor with an interpretation in terms of cognitive control. We conclude that examining cognitive adaptation with or without feature repetitions might be more difficult to conceive than is often suggested in the literature.
Tijdschrift: Frontiers in Psychology
ISSN: 1664-1078
Volume: 5
Jaar van publicatie:2015