An important aspect of cognitive control is to direct attention towards relevant information and away from distracting information. This attentional modulation is at the core of several influential frameworks, but its trainability and generalisability remain unclear. To address this issue, two groups of subjects were invited to the lab on three consecutive days. On Day 2, they performed an arrow priming task which trained them to adopt an attentional bias towards (prime-attended group) or away from (prime-diverted group) a potentially conflicting prime. Direct generalisation of the attention training was measured by assessing task performance on the same task without the attentional manipulation directly after training (Day 2) and the next day (Day 3), and comparing it to baseline (Day 1). Performance on this direct transfer task showed a difference in attentional modulation between groups directly after training that persisted the next day. No cross-task generalisation was found to two other tasks that were closely or more remotely related to the trained task. Together, these results are in accordance with cognitive control frameworks that limit attentional modulation to the specific features of the trained task.
Aben, B., Iseni, B., Van den Bussche, E., & Verguts, T. (2018). Persistent modification of cognitive control through attention training. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, DOI: 10.1177/1747021818757979.
The article is available here.
In the human category of learning, learning is studied in a supervised, an unsupervised, or a semisupervised way. The rare human semisupervised category of learning studies all focus on early learning. However, the impact of the semisupervised category learning late in learning, when automaticity develops, is unknown. Therefore, in Experiment 1, all participants were first trained on the information-integration category structure for 2 days until they reached an expert level. Afterwards, half of the participants learned in a supervised way and the other half in a semisupervised way over two successive days. Both groups received an equal number of feedback trials. Finally, all participants took part in a test day where they were asked to respond as quickly as possible. Participants were significantly faster on this test in the semisupervised group than in the supervised group. This difference was not found on day 2, implying that the no-feedback trials in the semisupervised condition facilitated automaticity. Experiment 2 was designed to test whether the higher number of trials in the semisupervised condition of Experiment 1 caused the faster response times. We therefore created an almost supervised condition where participants almost always received feedback (95%) and an almost unsupervised condition where participants almost never received feedback (5%). All conditions now contained an equal number of trials to the semisupervised condition of Experiment 1. The results show that receiving feedback almost always or almost never led to slower response times than the semisupervised condition of Experiment 1. This confirms the advantage of semisupervised learning late in learning.
Vandist, K., Storms, G., & Van den Bussche, E. (2018). Semisupervised category learning facilitates the development of automaticity. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-018-1595-7
The article is available here.
Despite the abundance of recent publications about mind wandering (i.e., off-task thought), its interconnection with metacognition and cognitive control has not yet been examined.
In the current study, we hypothesized that these three constructs would show clear interrelations. Metacognitive capacity was predicted to correlate positively with cognitive control ability, which in turn was predicted to be positively related to resistance to mind wandering during sustained attention. Moreover, it was expected that participants with good metacognitive capacity would be better at the subjective recognition of behaviorally present mind wandering. Three tasks were used: The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) to measure mind wandering, a perceptual decision task with confidence ratings to measure metacognitive efficiency, and a conflict task to measure cognitive control. Structural Equation Modelling was used to test the interrelations among the three constructs. As expected, metacognitive efficiency was positively related to cognitive control ability. Surprisingly, there was a negative relation between metacognitive efficiency and the degree to which subjective mind wandering reports tracked the behavioral index of mind wandering. No relation was found between cognitive control and behavioral mind wandering. The results of the current work are the first to shed light on the interrelations among these three constructs.
Drescher LH, Van den Bussche E, Desender K (2018) Absence without leave or leave without absence: Examining the interrelations among mind wandering, metacognition and cognitive control. PLOS ONE 13(2): e0191639. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191639.
The article is available here.
“The current study shows that the subjective experience of difficulty depends on multiple cues that are indicative of performance. It is shown that response conflict, reaction time, and response repetition influence subjective difficulty judgments. Trials that were congruent, fast or required the same response as the previous trial were more frequently rated as easy compared to trials that were incongruent, slow or had alternating responses. Moreover, the relative contribution of these cues can be changed by means of training: training participants to rely more on congruency or reaction time for their subjective difficulty judgment increased the influence of this cue on their judgment” (Desender et al., in press)
Desender, K., Van Opstal, F., & Van den Bussche, E. (in press). Subjective experience of difficulty depends on multiple cues. Scientific Reports.
Shorter time scales of control were demonstrated when conflict was rare and when the context was volatile.
This is in line with theories assuming transient control (i.e., control over a shorter time scale) in rare-conflict
and volatile conditions, and sustained control (i.e., control over longer time scales) when conflict is more frequent.
The method offers promising and straightforward opportunities to quantify variations in the time scale of control between individuals and conditions” (Aben et al., in press).
Aben, B., Verguts, T., & Van den Bussche, E. (2017). Beyond Trial-by-Trial Adaptation: A Quantification of the Time Scale of Cognitive Control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. [pdf] [R code .rar]
“In three experiments, the authors provided evidence that the subjective experience that a task is difficult to perfom in a high-demand context plays a role in shaping the preference for a low-demand context. They conclude that the avoidance of cognitive demand depends on the metacognitive appreciation of the difference in cognitive demand” (Desender et al., 2017)
The results of this study, conducted by Kobe Desender, Cristian Buc Calderon, Filip Van Opstal and Eva Van den Bussche have been recently published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.
Desender, K., Buc Calderon, C., Van Opstal, F., & Van den Bussche, E. (2017). Avoiding the conflict: Metacognitive awareness drives the selection of low-demand contexts Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance.
The article is available Here
The Cognitive Psychology (COPS) group of the Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology (VUB) would like to invite you to a talk by Prof. Patrick Haggard (UCL).
When? June 9th at 10.30
Where? VUB, Campus Etterbeek, building C, 3rd floor, room 3C204
We hope to see you there!
Haggard earned his BA in Natural Sciences (Psychology) from the University of Cambridge, where he also earned his PhD. His research interests include voluntary action, motor cognition, touch, somatosensation, and self-representation. Haggard’s current projects are investigations into the neurophysiology of ‘free will’–cortical activity associated with initiation of voluntary movement, how saccadic eye movements influence conscious visual perception, and the role of cognitive body image in tactile sensation. His research group works on the relation between brain activity and conscious experience in sensorimotor systems. Work on voluntary actions investigates the neural basis of conscious intention, and the brain processes that allow the motor system to link actions to external effects (‘sense of agency’).
Other projects focus on the neural substrate of our experience of our own bodies (touch, and proprioception). The overall aim is to link high-level cognitive processes to conscious experience on the one hand, and to specific circuits and processes in the cortex on the other. Good psychophysical measurement is a central pillar of most experiments, and is combined with a range of methods for studying brain function, including TMS, EEG, ERP and fMRI.
“Metacognition and Cognitive Control” on Wednesday, June 8th at 5 p.m. in the Promotiezaal VUB.
His contribution: Effects of reward on cognitive control when conflict is temporally unpredictable
Abstract: Cognitive control – the ability to flexibly adjust behavior to situational demands, for example when faced with conflict – is thought to be a combination of transient, on-the-fly control, and sustained, anticipatory control (Braver, 2012). When a potentially conflicting target is temporally predictable (i.e., intertrial intervals [ITIs] are fixed), there is no necessity to sustain control throughout the ITI. In this case, an alternative strategy could be to routinely activate transient control only when the target is expected. When the temporal predictability of the target is low, this strategy is no longer effective and control should be sustained throughout the ITI. However, it has been argued that this kind of cognitive control is effortful (Braver, 2012; Shenhav, Botvinick, & Cohen, 2013). It has also been shown that control can be boosted by reward (Botvinick & Braver, 2015). We therefore hypothesized that when intertrial intervals vary and no reward is offered, control is largest at the average ITI, reflecting a transient activation of control when the target is expected on average. However, increasing motivation by offering performance contingent rewards should lead to steady control on all ITIs, reflecting a sustained control mode. Preliminary results show that, although reward improved subjects’ general performance, it did not interact with ITI or congruency. Performance was also affected by ITI: a quartic trend showed that performance was best at the average ITI, i.e., when the average predictability of the target is largest. These results suggest that sustained control was applied steadily over all ITIs, both in rewarded and unrewarded blocks. However, since reward had no effect on control, this conclusion remains speculative. In fact, the reward schedule with separate dynamical thresholds for congruent and incongruent trials in combination with the equal proportion of both trial types may have left no room for specific adjustments in control (i.e., increased effort on incongruent trials) in the reward blocks. Instead, this may have “forced” subjects to become increasingly faster on both trial types.
Een onderzoek van Kobe Desender, doctoraatsstudent bij COPS, is gepubliceerd in het wetenschappelijke tijdschrift Neuropsychologia. In deze studie werd via EEG metingen taak-gerelateerde neurale activiteit gedissocieerd van neurale activiteit gelinkt aan metacognitie.
Het artikel is hier te downloaden.
Desender, K., Van Opstal, F., Hughes, G., & Van den Bussche, E. (2016). The temporal dynamics of metacognition: Dissociating task-related activity from later metacognitive processing. Neuropsychologia, 82, 54-64.