The relationship between conflict awareness and behavioral and oscillatory signatures of immediate and delayed cognitive control

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Abstract

Cognitive control over conflict, mediated by the prefrontal cortex, is an important skill for successful decision-making. Although it has been shown that cognitive control may operate unconsciously, it has recently been proposed that control operations may be driven by the metacognitive awareness of conflict, e.g. arising from the feeling of task difficulty or the ease of action selection, and therefore crucially depends on conflict awareness. Behavioral and electroencephalography (EEG) data are presented from 64 subjects performing a masked priming paradigm to test this hypothesis. Although the subjective experience of conflict elicited behavioral adaptation, this was also the case when conflict was present, but not experienced. In EEG, typical oscillatory markers of conflict processing in the theta-, alpha- and beta-band were observed (relative broadband), but these were differentially modulated by conflict experience. This demonstrates that conflict adaptation does not depend on conflict experience, but that conflict experience is associated with increased cognitive control.

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