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Psychon Bull Rev. 2009 Feb;16(1):121-6. doi: 10.3758/PBR.16.1.121.

Sequential dependencies in the Eriksen flanker task: a direct comparison of two competing accounts.

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School of Psychology, Birkbeck, University of London, London, England, United Kingdom.


In the conflict/control loop theory proposed by Botvinick, Braver, Barch, Carter, and Cohen (2001), conflict monitored in a trial leads to an increase in cognitive control on the subsequent trial. The critical data pattern supporting this assertion is the so-called Gratton effect--the decrease in flanker interference following incongruent trials--which was initially observed in the Eriksen flanker task. Recently, however, the validity of the idea that this pattern supports a general conflict/control mechanism has been questioned on the grounds that the Gratton effect is only observed with stimulus repetition. We present an experiment testing whether the Gratton effect reflects a stimulus-independent increase in cognitive control or stimulus-specific repetition priming. Although our results support the latter hypothesis, the priming effect is modulated by the congruency of the previous trial. We discuss a new mechanism through which monitored conflict is used to exert executive control by modulating stimulus-response associations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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