How do working-memory-related demand, reasoning ability and aversive reinforcement modulate conflict monitoring?

Abstract

Conflict monitoring is a process of stimulus evaluation and a pre-requisite for subsequent recruitment of cognitive control and behavioral adaptations. This study investigated how experimentally manipulated working-memory-related cognitive demand and aversive reinforcement modulate individual differences of conflict monitoring intensity and behavioral adjustments. Individual differences were assessed by means of an anxiety-related trait dimension (trait-BIS) and by means of reasoning abilities-a core determinant of intelligence. Moreover, we investigated the special role of verbal reasoning ability and figural reasoning ability for the modulation of the conflict monitoring intensity. Ninety participants performed a go/nogo task with four conditions each comprising a combination of low vs. high working-memory-related cognitive demand and low vs. high aversive reinforcement. No effect of aversive reinforcement was observed for the N2 amplitude. The fronto-central nogo N2 amplitude was more pronounced for high demand vs. low demand suggesting that cognitive demand served as an aversive costly event. Higher total reasoning abilities were associated with more intense conflict monitoring and shorter response times with increasing aversive reinforcement (defined as verbal error-feedback vs. monetary loss). Individuals with higher trait-BIS scores demonstrated a more intense conflict monitoring even in conditions with low aversive reinforcement and also a more cautious responding (i.e., response times slowing) with increasing aversive reinforcement indicating a focus on negative feedback prevention. The findings provide evidence for the conflict monitoring theory and suggest that working-memory-related demand overrules the impact of aversive reinforcement on conflict monitoring intensity. Reasoning abilities and anxiety-related traits go along with an intensification of conflict monitoring but differences in the flexibility of behavioral adjustment.

DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00210

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Leue2014HowDW, title={How do working-memory-related demand, reasoning ability and aversive reinforcement modulate conflict monitoring?}, author={Anja Leue and Bernd Weber and Andr{\'e} Beauducel}, booktitle={Front. Hum. Neurosci.}, year={2014} }