Testing theories of post-error slowing

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2012 Feb;74(2):454-65. doi: 10.3758/s13414-011-0243-2.


People tend to slow down after they make an error. This phenomenon, generally referred to as post-error slowing, has been hypothesized to reflect perceptual distraction, time wasted on irrelevant processes, an a priori bias against the response made in error, increased variability in a priori bias, or an increase in response caution. Although the response caution interpretation has dominated the empirical literature, little research has attempted to test this interpretation in the context of a formal process model. Here, we used the drift diffusion model to isolate and identify the psychological processes responsible for post-error slowing. In a very large lexical decision data set, we found that post-error slowing was associated with an increase in response caution and-to a lesser extent-a change in response bias. In the present data set, we found no evidence that post-error slowing is caused by perceptual distraction or time wasted on irrelevant processes. These results support a response-monitoring account of post-error slowing.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Awareness
  • Decision Making*
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Reaction Time*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Semantics*