, Volume 71, Issue 8, pp 1807-1824

Subjective aspects of cognitive control at different stages of processing

Abstract

Although research on cognitive control has addressed the effects that different forms of cognitive interference have on behavior and the activities of certain brain regions, until recently, the effects of interference on subjective experience have not been addressed. We demonstrate that, at the level of the individual trial, participants can reliably introspect the subjective aspects (e.g., perceptions of difficulty, competition, and control) of responding in interference paradigms. Similar subjective effects were obtained for both expressed and unexpressed (subvocalized) actions. Few participants discerned the source of these effects. These basic findings illuminate aspects of cognitive control and cognitive effort. In addition, these data have implications for the study of response interference in affect and self-control, and they begin to address theories regarding the function of consciousness.

This research was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to E.M. (F32-MH69083) and to J.A.B. (R01-MH60767).