Trial-by-trial adjustments in control triggered by incidentally encoded semantic cues

Christopher Blais, Michael B. Harris, Michael H. Sinanian, Silvia A. Bunge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cognitive control mechanisms provide the flexibility to rapidly adapt to contextual demands. These contexts can be defined by top-down goals—but also by bottom-up perceptual factors, such as the location at which a visual stimulus appears. There are now several experiments reporting contextual control effects. Such experiments establish that contexts defined by low-level perceptual cues such as the location of a visual stimulus can lead to context-specific control, suggesting a relatively early focus for cognitive control. The current set of experiments involved a word-word interference task designed to assess whether a high-level cue, the semantic category to which a word belongs, can also facilitate contextual control. Indeed, participants exhibit a larger Flanker effect to items pertaining to a semantic category in which 75% of stimuli are incongruent than in response to items pertaining to a category in which 25% of stimuli are incongruent. Thus, both low-level and high-level stimulus features can affect the bottomup engagement of cognitive control. The implications for current models of cognitive control are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1920-1930
Number of pages11
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 28 2015


  • Categorization
  • Cognitive control
  • Context-specific congruency proportion
  • Implicit learning
  • Selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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