The control-freak mind: stereotypical biases are eliminated following conflict-activated cognitive control

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2014 Apr;143(2):498-503. doi: 10.1037/a0033047. Epub 2013 May 13.


Numerous daily situations require control for successful goal attainment. An important question is whether control can adjust across situations, to create control readiness from one situation to the next. Using trial to trial control adjustment paradigms, previous research generally suggested that control adjustments are domain specific. However, this research typically used neutral stimuli (e.g., single letters) devoid of personally and socially relevant goals. We propose that personal relevance may be an important modulator of control adjustment and, hence, that personally relevant control tasks can benefit from control readiness, even if it is produced by a different task. In 2 experiments we test whether control over the expression of stereotypes, a highly meaningful and desirable goal for many, can benefit from control readiness evoked by a neutral unrelated Flanker task. Results suggest that stereotype-driven behavior is modulated by independently activated control and that personal relevance may facilitate control adjustments across domains.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Racism / psychology
  • Reaction Time
  • Sexism / psychology
  • Stereotyping*