Post-error slowing: an orienting account

Cognition. 2009 May;111(2):275-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.002. Epub 2009 Mar 12.


It is generally assumed that slowing after errors is a cognitive control effect reflecting more careful response strategies after errors. However, clinical data are not compatible with this explanation. We therefore consider two alternative explanations, one referring to the possibility of a persisting underlying problem and one on the basis of the low frequency of errors (orienting account). This latter hypothesis argues that infrequent events orient attention away from the task. Support for the orienting account was obtained in two experiments. Using a new experimental procedure, Experiment 1 demonstrated post-error slowing after infrequent errors and post-correct slowing after infrequent correct trials. In Experiment 2, slowing was observed following infrequent irrelevant tones replacing the feedback signals.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Self Concept
  • Young Adult