Dissociating proactive and reactive control in the Stroop task

Mem Cognit. 2016 Jul;44(5):778-88. doi: 10.3758/s13421-016-0591-1.


The Dual Mechanisms of Control framework posits the existence of two distinct control mechanisms, proactive and reactive, which may operate independently. However, this independence has been difficult to study with most experimental paradigms. The Stroop task may provide a useful way of assessing the independence of control mechanisms because the task elicits two types of proportion congruency effects, list-wide and item-specific, thought to reflect proactive and reactive control respectively. The present research tested whether these two proportion congruency effects can be used to dissociate proactive and reactive control. In 2 separate participant samples, we demonstrate that list-wide and item-specific proportion congruency effects are stable, exist in the same participants, and appear in different task conditions. Moreover, we identify two distinct behavioral signatures, the congruency cost and the transfer cost, which doubly dissociate the two effects. Together, the results are consistent with the view that proactive and reactive control reflect independent mechanisms.

Keywords: Cognitive control; Dual Mechanisms of Control (DMC); Item-specific proportion congruency; List-wide proportion congruency; Stroop interference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stroop Test*
  • Young Adult