Conflict monitoring and decision making: reconciling two perspectives on anterior cingulate function

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2007 Dec;7(4):356-66. doi: 10.3758/cabn.7.4.356.


According to one influential account, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) serves to monitor for conflicts in information processing. According to another influential account, the ACC monitors action outcomes and guides decision making. Both of these perspectives are supported by an abundance of data, making it untenable to reject one view in favor of the other. Instead, the apparent challenge is to discover how the two perspectives might fit together within a larger account. In the present article, we consider the prospects for such a reconciliation. Juxtaposing the conflict-monitoring and decision-making accounts suggests an extension of the conflict-monitoring theory, by which conflict would act as a teaching signal driving a form of avoidance learning. The effect of this mechanism would be to bias behavioral decision making toward cognitively efficient tasks and strategies. We discuss evidence favoring this proposal and present an initial computational model, which lays the foundation for further development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Self Concept