Linking the Dynamics of Cognitive Control to Individual Differences in Working Memory Capacity: Evidence From Reaching Behavior

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael J. Kane, Professor (Creator)
Stuart Marcovitch, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Psychology (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: We used a technique known as reach tracking to investigate how individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) relate to the functioning of two processes proposed to underlie cognitive control: a threshold adjustment process that temporarily inhibits motor output in response to signals of conflict and a controlled selection process that recruits top-down control to guide stimulus-response translation. Undergraduates (N = 135) performed two WMC tasks (updating counters and symmetry span) and a reach-tracking version of the Eriksen flanker task. Consistent with previous research using button-press flanker tasks, WMC significantly correlated with response time (RT) performance, with higher WMC scores corresponding to smaller congruencyeffects. Given that RTs reflect the combined functioning of multiple processes underlying cognitive control, we interpreted this effect to reflect a general link between WMC and both the threshold adjustment process and controlled selection process. We also found a significant association between WMC and participants’ reach trajectories, with higher WMC scores corresponding to more direct reach movements on incongruent trials involving stimulus-response overlap with the preceding trial. We interpreted this effect to reflect a more specific link between WMC and the functioning of the controlled selection process. We discuss the observed links between WMC and cognitive control in relation to the unity and diversity of executive functions framework and in relation to the role of prefrontal and striatal dopamine in supporting adaptive cognitive control.

Additional Information

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 47(9)
Language: English
Date: 2021
cognitive control, flanker task, inhibitory control, reach tracking, working memory capacity

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