Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 467-472

First online:

The conflict adaptation effect: It’s not just priming

  • Markus UllspergerAffiliated withMax Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences Email author 
  • , Lauren M. BylsmaAffiliated withUniversity of Pennsylvania
  • , Matthew M. BotvinickAffiliated withUniversity of Pennsylvania


Analyses of trial sequences in flanker tasks have revealed cognitive adaptation, reflected in a reduced interference effect following incompatible trials (Gratton, Coles, & Donchin, 1992). These effects have been explained on the basis of the response conflict monitoring model of Botvinick, Braver, Barch, Carter, and Cohen (2001), who proposed that preceding response conflict triggers stronger topdown control, leading to performance improvements on subsequent trials of similar context. A recent study (Mayr, Awh, & Laurey, 2003) has challenged this account, suggesting that the behavioral adaptations are confined to trial sequences of exact trial repetitions and can therefore be explained by repetition priming. Here, we present two experiments in which the sequential dependency effect was present even on trial sequences that did not involve stimulus repeats. We discuss the data with respect to the conflict-monitoring and repetition-priming accounts.