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Attention immaturity in late adolescence: Conflict adaptation with value associated stimuli

53.4075, Tuesday, 19-May, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Attention: Selection and modulation

Daniel Dodgson1, Jane Raymond1; 1School of Psychology, University of Birmingham

Speeded responding to targets in the presence of flanking distractors is slower when targets and distractors activate incongruent versus congruent responses. This slowing can be reduced when the preceding trial is also incongruent, an effect called conflict adaptation (CA). CA indexes a transient modification of attention selection strategy based on immediate prior experience. It is large when cognitive control is reactive to current events and smaller when control is tightly goal-driven (proactive), despite changing stimulus demands. Here, we measured CA in adolescents (~17 yrs) and adults (~29 yrs) to investigate late childhood development of cognitive control. Considering that cognitive control is thought to be more reactive than proactive in teens, we predicted larger CA in this group. Teens are also thought to be hyper-reactive to reward associations, suggesting that reward associated incongruent distractors should be highly distracting for this group even when CA is used to limit distractor effects. To investigate, we had all participants (adults and teens) undergo value association learning (wherein abstract symbols reliably predicted monetary wins, losses or nothing) and then used the value-associated stimuli in a conventional flanker task to measure CA. When distractors were associated with neither winning nor losing money, CA was significantly (p < .05) larger for adolescents than for adults (and was observed for both groups). For adults, value-associated distractors had no effect on the magnitude of CA, whereas for adolescents, large distractor interference (slowing) was evident when flankers were win or loss associated. This slowing was unaffected by response conflict in the previous trial (causing CA effects to collapse). These results show that the motivational salience of current stimuli and the consequences of recently experienced stimuli are especially effective at rapidly influencing attention in teenagers. These data support the wider view that cognitive control is still developing in late childhood.

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