Parametric control of distractor-oriented attention

AbstractTraditional models of cognitive control account for a host of classic findings, but these classic tasks have limited our ability to test a broader range of model predictions. In particular, such models predict that control should vary parametrically in response to cognitive demands and that control adjustments should be targeted towards task-relevant stimulus features. We developed a task to probe these predictions across two experiments. Participants responded to one dimension of a stimulus while ignoring the other, and we parametrically varied the conflict between those dimensions and the predictability of this conflict across trials. We found that control adjustments (1) varied parametrically in response to cognitive demands, (2) were sensitive to the predictability of those demands, and (3) were primarily targeted towards task-irrelevant dimensions. These results raise interesting questions about the structure of cognitive control and demonstrate the utility of rich tasks for constraining model predictions.

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