Assessing the Durablity and Time Course of Stimulus-driven Control
Hutcheon, Thomas Gordon
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The term cognitive control refers to a variety of mental processes that support goal-directed behavior. In the current dissertation, I focus on the role of cognitive control in situations where a weaker (but task-relevant) source of information must be selected over a stronger (but task-irrelevant) source of information. The efficiency with which individuals select information in the face of distraction has classically been viewed as a function of static control settings tied to task instructions. Recent evidence suggests, however, that variations in the efficiency of cognitive control can be induced by variations in stimulus experience and that multiple control settings may be maintained for a single task. To date, little is known about the mechanisms that support this more flexible form of control. Across six experiments, I find evidence for the formation of multiple control settings that are relatively long lasting but fragile. Multiple control settings can be maintained within a single experiment and can last over relatively long periods of time, however, without the proper contextual support these control settings fall apart. These results emphasize the important role of stimulus experience in studies of cognitive control.