Reward modulates adaptations to conflict

Cognition. 2012 Nov;125(2):324-32. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.07.015. Epub 2012 Aug 11.


Both cognitive conflict (e.g. Verguts & Notebaert, 2009) and reward signals (e.g. Waszak & Pholulamdeth, 2009) have been proposed to enhance task-relevant associations. Bringing these two notions together, we predicted that reward modulates conflict-based sequential adaptations in cognitive control. This was tested combining either a single flanker task (Experiment 1) or a task-switch paradigm (Experiment 2) with performance-related rewards. Both experiments confirmed that adaptations after conflict were modulated by reward. In the flanker task, this resulted in increased conflict adaptation after rewarded trials. In the task-switching experiment, reward increased the conflict-modulated switch cost. Interestingly, both adaptations to conflict disappeared after no-reward trials. Moreover, individual differences in participants' sensitivity to reward predicted these reward modulations of trial-to-trial adaptations. These findings shed new light on the exact role of cognitive conflict in shaping subsequent behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Cognition
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult