Sequential modulations of poorer-strategy effects during strategy execution: An event-related potential study in arithmetic


  • Hinault Thomas
  • Dufau Stéphane
  • Lemaire Patrick

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When participants accomplish cognitive tasks, they obtain poorer performance if asked to execute a poorer strategy than a better strategy on a given problem. These poorer-strategy effects are smaller following execution of a poorer strategy relative to following a better strategy. To investigate ERP correlates of sequential modulations of poorer-strategy effects, we asked participants (n = 20) to accomplish a computational estimation task (i.e., provide approximate products to two-digit multiplication problems like 38 x 74). For each problem, they were cued to execute a better versus a poorer strategy. We found event-related potentials signatures of sequential modulations of poorer-strategy effects in two crucial windows (i.e., between 200 and 550 ms and between 850 and 1250 ms) associated with executive control mechanisms and allowing conflict monitoring between the better and the cued strategy. These results have important implications on theories of strategies as they suggest that sequential modulations of poorer-strategy effects involve earlier as well as later mechanisms of cognitive control during strategy execution. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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