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Affective modulation of cognitive control processes.

Saturday, October 01st,   2011 [08:30 - 10:30]

SY_14. Affective modulation of cognitive control processes

Schuch, S. & Koch, I.

Institute of Psychology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

Cognitive control processes enable human beings to adapt flexibly to changes in situational context and task demands. Traditionally, cognitive control has been studied using experimental paradigms such as task switching, or the family of conflict tasks (e.g., Simon, Stroop, Flanker paradigms, etc.). Recently, empirical markers of cognitive control in these paradigms have been found to be influenced by affective states. These findings suggest that the underlying cognitive control processes are modulated by emotional factors. This symposium brings together leading experts on the interface of cognitive control and affect.



SY_14.1 - The influence of considered positive emotions on inhibition

Katzir, M. , Eyal, T. , Meiran, N. & Kessler, Y.

Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

Successful self-control (i.e., adherence to a long-term goal in the face of an interfering short-term goal, or temptation) relies on the ability to inhibit temptations. This research explores the effect of considered positive emotional events on inhibition. We propose that the influence of considered emotions on inhibition depends on whether the emotion corresponds to a long-term goal (i.e., pride) or a short-term temptation (i.e., joy), because considering emotions primes their corresponding goals. In a series of experiments we find that considering a joyful event harms inhibitory processes compared to considering a prideful event. These findings suggest a possible mechanism underlying the role of considered positive emotions in pursuit of goals that require self-control.

SY_14.2 - Humor regulates cognitive control: a neural mechanism

van Steenbergen, H. , Band, G. P. , Hommel, B. , Rombouts, S. A. & Nieuwenhuis, S.

Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition & Leiden University Institute of Psychology, Leiden, The Netherlands

Positive emotional states are known to reduce the impact of cognitive demands and information-processing conflict on human behavior, but the underlying neural mechanism of this modulation is unknown. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how pleasure induced by funny cartoons regulates behavioral control and neural adaptations to cognitive conflict. Humor activated hedonic hotspots in the basal ganglia, which attenuated the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) response to conflict. This reduced subsequent conflict adaptation as observed in behavior and monitoring-related dorsal ACC activation. Our observations reveal the neural mechanism by which positive emotions regulate adaptive goal-directed behavior.

SY_14.3 - Reward-based adaptive binding in cognitive control

Braem, S. 1 , Verguts, T. 1 , Roggeman, C. 2 & Notebaert, W. 1

1 Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
2 Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

In a recent model by Verguts and Notebaert (2008, 2009), cognitive control effects such as the conflict adaptation effect and the task switch cost are captured in terms of adaptation by binding. It has recently been shown that positive affect increases binding (Colzato, van Wouwe, & Hommel, 2007; Waszak & Pholulamdeth, 2009). If reward strengthens task-relevant associations, it can be expected that conflict adaptation and the task switch cost will increase after reward, but not after punishment. In a series of experiments we have put this hypothesis to the test combining both a standard flanker task and a task switch paradigm with reinforcement signals. Both experiments confirmed our predictions. Moreover, individual differences, as measured by the Behavioural Activation Scale, show that the more sensitive people are to rewards, the more reward strengthens task-relevant associations.

SY_14.4 - Affective modulation of cognitive flexibility

Froeber, K. & Dreisbach, G.

University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

There is increasing evidence that positive affect increases cognitive flexibility. However, results in the field are rather inconsistent. We therefore wanted to investigate the role of arousal for this positive affect effect to occur. To this end, a very simple response‐priming task with centrally presented predictive cues was used. Cue‐validity was 66%, and each trial was preceded by an affective picture(negative/high arousal, neutral, positive/high arousal, positive/low arousal). Results confirmed increased cognitive flexibility under positive affect: the cue‐validity effect after positive pictures with low arousal (but not so with high arousal) was significantly reduced. Furthermore, a main effect Picture was found reflecting significantly higher overall reaction times (RTs) after negative pictures as compared to positive pictures of the same arousal. This general RT increase after negative pictures cannot be explained by arousal alone because high arousal in combination with positive pictures actually decreased RTs. It follows that affect and arousal should be controlled for when affect effects are investigated.

SY_14.5 - Task switching in dysphoria: The specific effects of dysphoric rumination on task selection

Owens, M. & Derakshan, N.

Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck University of London, London, UK

Executive dysfunction in dysphoria and dysphoric rumination is often reflected as perseverative behaviour, and may result in performance deficits on measures of cognitive flexibility. For the present study participants were required to switch between two randomly ordered spatial location tasks in which the position of a target within a 2x2 grid was determined according to a horizontal or vertical dimension. The congruency effect found in task switching was replicated such that interference from a currently irrelevant task was associated with slower responses and greater selection of the wrong task. Dysphoric ruminators displayed poor filtering of the currently irrelevant task relative to non-ruminators which in turn resulted in a specific task selection deficit, and a bias to perform the easier horizontal task. Results suggest difficulty choosing an appropriate response promoted application of the most salient task regardless of relevance. Our findings extend previous research that have linked impaired inhibition of irrelevant information with cognitive inflexibility in dysphoric rumination, and are discussed in terms of proposals which argue for an independent contribution of dysphoric rumination to cognitive deficits observed in dysphoria.

SY_14.6 - The influence of stress on inhibitory control

Schuch, S. & Koch, I.

RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany

How stress affects cognition has long been a focus of research. Of particular interest is how stress alters cognitive control processes, which allow humans to flexibly adapt their behaviour to changing situational constraints. One theoretical idea that has been put forward is that stress leads to increased selectivity of attention, and to increased inhibitory control. We investigated this idea applying different task-switching paradigms. We will present data showing that (1) the asymmetry between the dominant and non-dominant task in a Stroop-like paradigm is more pronounced under stress, (2) the costs of switching back to a recently abandoned task (n-2 repetition costs) are increased under stress. These findings are consistent with the idea that stress increases the difference in activation between relevant and irrelevant tasks, that is, that stress leads to increased inhibitory control. The present results will be discussed in relation to other empirical findings and theoretical approaches.

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