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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2015 May;77(4):1295-306. doi: 10.3758/s13414-015-0843-3.

Does perceptual confidence facilitate cognitive control?

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Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 406 Schermerhorn Hall, 1190 Amsterdam Ave MC 5501, New York, NY, 10027, USA,


Our visual perception is typically accompanied by a sense of subjective confidence. Since perceptual confidence is related to prefrontal activity, higher perceptual confidence may enhance cognitive control functions. To examine this interaction, we developed a novel method to selectively manipulate perceptual confidence while keeping stimulus discrimination accuracy constant. In a behavioral experiment, grating stimuli with different orientations were presented as go/no-go signals. Surprisingly, the results showed that confidence in visual discrimination of the signals on its own did not facilitate response inhibition, since when participants were presented with stimuli that yielded higher confidence, they were no better at performing a go/no-go task. These results were replicated with different (dot motion) stimuli, ruling out alternative explanations based on stimulus idiosyncrasy. In a different experiment, when the grating stimuli were presented as cues for task set preparation, we found that higher perceptual confidence also did not enhance task set preparation efficiency. This result was again replicated with dot motion stimuli. Since confidence may relate to perceptual awareness (Peirce & Jastrow, 1885), our findings may put current dominant theories in question, since these theories often suppose the critical involvement of consciousness in cognitive control. As a proof of concept, our method may also provide a new and powerful way to examine other functions of consciousness in future studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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