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

Abstract

Conflict detection in sensory input is central to adaptive human behavior. Perhaps unsurprisingly, past research has shown that conflict may even be detected in 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.

Data availability

The data and analysis scripts used in this article is available on Figshare https://uvaauas.figshare.com/projects/Preserved_sensory_processing_but_hampered_conflict_detection_when_stimulus_input_is_task-irrelevant/115020

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Stijn Adriaan Nuiten

    Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    For correspondence
    stijnnuiten@gmail.com
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-9248-166X
  2. Andres Canales-Johnson

    Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Lola Beerendonk

    Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Nutsa Nanuashvili

    Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Johannes Jacobus Fahrenfort

    Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-9025-3436
  6. Tristan Bekinschtein

    Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. Simon van Gaal

    Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    For correspondence
    simonvangaal@gmail.com
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

H2020 European Research Council (ERC-2016-STG_715605)

  • Simon van Gaal

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Nicole C Swann, University of Oregon, United States

Ethics

Human subjects: Written informed consent was obtained from all participants after explanation of the experimental protocol. This study was approved by the local ethics committee of the University of Amsterdam (projects: 2015-BC-4687, 2017-BC-8257, 2019-BC-10711).

Version history

  1. Received: October 28, 2020
  2. Accepted: June 2, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: June 14, 2021 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: July 21, 2021 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2021, Nuiten et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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  1. Stijn Adriaan Nuiten
  2. Andres Canales-Johnson
  3. Lola Beerendonk
  4. Nutsa Nanuashvili
  5. Johannes Jacobus Fahrenfort
  6. Tristan Bekinschtein
  7. Simon van Gaal
(2021)
Preserved sensory processing but hampered conflict detection when stimulus input is task-irrelevant
eLife 10:e64431.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.64431

Share this article

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.64431

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