ERP evidence for conflict in contingency learning

Peter S. Whitehead, Gene Brewer, Christopher Blais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The proportion congruency effect refers to the observation that the magnitude of the Stroop effect increases as the proportion of congruent trials in a block increases. Contemporary work shows that proportion effects can be driven by both context and individual items, and are referred to as context-specific proportion congruency (CSPC) and item-specific proportion congruency (ISPC) effects, respectively. The conflict-modulated Hebbian learning account posits that these effects manifest from the same mechanism, while the parallel episodic processing model posits that the ISPC can occur by simple associative learning. Our prior work showed that the neural correlates of the CSPC is an N2 over frontocentral electrode sites approximately 300 ms after stimulus onset that predicts behavioral performance. There is strong consensus in the field that this N2 signal is associated with conflict detection in the medial frontal cortex. The experiment reported here assesses whether the same qualitative electrophysiological pattern of results holds for the ISPC. We find that the spatial topography of the N2 is similar but slightly delayed with a peak onset of approximately 300 ms after stimulus onset. We argue that this provides strong evidence that a single common mechanism—conflict-modulated Hebbian learning—drives both the ISPC and CSPC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1039
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • ERP
  • Simon
  • associative learning
  • conflict-modulated Hebbian-learning
  • response conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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