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Preserved sensory processing but hampered conflict detection when stimulus input is task-irrelevant.

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Nuiten, Stijn Adriaan  ORCID logo
Canales-Johnson, Andrés  ORCID logo
Fahrenfort, Johannes Jacobus  ORCID logo


Conflict detection in sensory input is central to adaptive human behavior. Perhaps unsurprisingly, past research has shown that conflict may even be detected in the absence of conflict awareness, suggesting that conflict detection is an automatic process that does not require attention. To test the possibility of conflict processing in the absence of attention, we manipulated task relevance and response overlap of potentially conflicting stimulus features across six behavioral tasks. Multivariate analyses on human electroencephalographic data revealed neural signatures of conflict only when at least one feature of a conflicting stimulus was attended, regardless of whether that feature was part of the conflict, or overlaps with the response. In contrast, neural signatures of basic sensory processes were present even when a stimulus was completely unattended. These data reveal an attentional bottleneck at the level of objects, suggesting that object-based attention is a prerequisite for cognitive control operations involved in conflict detection.



EEG, cognitive conflict, cognitive control, decoding, human, neuroscience, object-based attention, task-relevance, Acoustic Stimulation, Adolescent, Adult, Cognition, Conflict, Psychological, Electroencephalography, Female, Humans, Male, Perception, Psychological Tests, Young Adult

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eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd