abstract Senne Braem

Senne Braem (Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University)

How positive response outcomes modulate task performance

In the present study we focused on the role of rewards in cognitive control. In a recent model by Verguts and Notebaert (2008, 2009), cognitive control effects such as the conflict adaptation effect and task switch cost modulations are captured in terms of adaptation by binding. Also, It has recently been shown that positive response outcomes increase binding (Colzato, van Wouwe, & Hommel, 2007; Waszak & Pholulamdeth, 2009). If reward strengthens task-relevant associations, it can be expected that conflict adaptation and the conflict-modulated task switch cost will increase after reward. In a series of experiments we have put this hypothesis to the test combining both a standard flanker task and task switch paradigms with reward signals. Both experiments confirmed our predictions. Moreover, individual differences, as measured by the Behavioral Activation Scale, show that the more sensitive people are to rewards, the more reward strengthens task-relevant associations. In a second series of experiment we demonstrated by both reaction time analyses and electrophysiological markers how task- or stimuli-specific reinforcement schedules modulate overall task performance. Together, these findings point towards the beneficial effects of (relative) reward signals on both trial-to-trial cognitive adaptations and overall task focus.