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ERIC Number: EJ1056525
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Mar
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 63
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Conflict-Triggered Top-Down Control: Default Mode, Last Resort, or No Such Thing?
Bugg, Julie M.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v40 n2 p567-587 Mar 2014
The conflict monitoring account posits that globally high levels of conflict trigger engagement of top-down control; however, recent findings point to the mercurial nature of top-down control in high conflict contexts. The current study examined the potential moderating effect of associative learning on conflict-triggered top-down control engagement by testing the Associations as Antagonists to Top-Down Control (AATC) hypothesis. In 4 experiments, list-wide proportion congruence was manipulated, and conflict-triggered top-down control engagement was examined by comparing interference for frequency-matched, 50% congruent items across mostly congruent (low conflict) and mostly incongruent (high conflict) lists. Despite the fact that global levels of conflict were varied identically across experiments, evidence of conflict-triggered top-down control engagement was selective to those experiments in which responses could not be predicted on the majority of trials via simple associative learning, consistent with the AATC hypothesis. In a 5th experiment, older adults showed no evidence of top-down control engagement under conditions in which young adults did, a finding that refined the interpretation of the patterns observed in the prior experiments. Collectively, these findings suggest that top-down control engagement in high conflict contexts is neither the default mode nor an unused (or nonexistent) strategy. Top-down control is best characterized as a last resort that is engaged when reliance on one's environment, and in particular associative responding, is unproductive for achieving task goals.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institute on Aging (DHHS/NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Missouri
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Stroop Color Word Test
IES Grant or Contract Numbers: 5T32AG00030