Hebbian learning of cognitive control: dealing with specific and nonspecific adaptation

Psychol Rev. 2008 Apr;115(2):518-25. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.115.2.518.


The conflict monitoring model of M. M. Botvinick, T. S. Braver, D. M. Barch, C. S. Carter, and J. D. Cohen (2001) triggered several research programs investigating various aspects of cognitive control. One problematic aspect of the Botvinick et al. model is that there is no clear account of how the cognitive system knows where to intervene when conflict is detected. As a result, recent findings of task-specific and context-specific (e.g., item-specific) adaptation are difficult to interpret. The difficulty with item-specific adaptation was recently pointed out by C. Blais, S. Robidoux, E. F. Risko, and D. Besner (2007), who proposed an alternative model that could account for this. However, the same problem of where the cognitive system should intervene resurfaces in a different shape in this model, and it has difficulty in accounting for the Gratton effect, a hallmark item-nonspecific effect. The authors of the current article show how these problems can be solved when cognitive control is implemented as a conflict-modulated Hebbian learning rule.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Reaction Time