Previous research has examined the ability of parametric task-related manipulations to bias attention to errors; however, the present study sought to elucidate the effects of internal adjustments in control mediated by the anterior cingulate cortex on error-related conflict processing. High-density event-related potentials (ERPs) were obtained from 124 healthy individuals (68 female, 66 male) during a modified Eriksen flanker task.
Behavioral measures (i.e., error rates, response times [RTs]) and N2 amplitudes showed significant conflict adaptation (i.e., previous-trial congruencies influenced current-trial measures). For error trials, the error-related negativity (ERN) was more negative for errors on high-conflict (i.e., incongruent) trials following high-conflict trials relative to errors on high-conflict trials following low-conflict (i.e., congruent) trials.
These findings indicate that error-related conflict-monitoring processes adjust according to the post-conflict recruitment of strategic cognitive control and suggest an ongoing interplay between conflict and internal adjustments in control resources.
Interpretations from the perspective of the conflict monitoring theory of cognitive control, the reinforcement learning theory, and the response-outcome theory of the ERN are discussed.