CCN meeting | Craig Hedge, Cardiff University, UK

09-12-2019 from 13:00 to 14:00
Henri Dunantlaan 2, room 4.2
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Crossing the desert: Understanding individual differences in cognitive control

Individual differences in cognitive control paradigms are increasingly employed to relate cognition to brain structure, chemistry, and function. However, measuring individual differences in cognitive abilities is challenging. We often assume that tasks that show robust effects in experimental studies will serve well as an objective measure of individual variation (e.g. the Stroop reaction time cost). In this talk I will discuss how this assumption can lead us astray, across a variety of cognitive domains including response inhibition, executive functioning, and attention. First, I will discuss how tasks can provide poor measures of individual differences for the very same reason that they are highly effective in experimental contexts. Second, I will discuss how we measure ability using choice reaction time tasks. Counterintuitively, a meta-analysis shows low and inconsistent correlation between reaction time costs and error costs taken from the same tasks. This pattern can be understood using evidence accumulation models, such as the drift-diffusion model, in which we can distinguish differences in ability from differences in strategy. Finally, I will use the accumulation model framework to examine a recent debate in the literature about whether a general 'response inhibition' ability exists. Though there is likely no silver bullet to measuring individual differences in cognition, we can avoid common pitfalls by explicitly considering the multiple processes that underlie behaviour.