Sequential Compatibility Effects and Cognitive Control: Does Conflict Really Matter?


  • Burle Boris
  • Allain Sonia
  • Vidal Franck
  • Hasbroucq Thierry


  • Sequential adjustments
  • Ne/ERN
  • Conflict-loop theory
  • Partial errors

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Although it is widely accepted that control mechanisms are necessary for human behavior to be adapted, very little is known about how such mechanisms are recruited. A suggestion to fill the gap was put forward by M. M. Botvinick, T. S. Braver, C. S. Carter, D. M. Barch, and J. D. Cohen (2001), who proposed the conflict-loop theory. This theory has been successful in accounting for the reduction of compatibility effects after an incompatible trial: The level of conflict being, on average, higher during an incompatible trial, more control occurs after such a trial. The authors have tested this prediction by sorting the trials on the basis of amount of conflict (quantified by the electromyographic activity) they presented. A reduction of the compatibility effect was observed after incompatible trials, but it was independent of the level of conflict on previous trials, suggesting that the conflict does not trigger changes in executive control. Consequences for the conflict monitoring model are discussed.

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