Date of Degree

2-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.S.

Program

Cognitive Neuroscience

Advisor

Tony Ro

Subject Categories

Cognitive Neuroscience

Abstract

Cognitive control refers to a set of functions that allow for the execution of goal-directed behavior while remaining flexible to changes in task demands. Findings addressing whether or not awareness is necessary to elicit cognitive control are inconsistent, possibly stemming from the short stimulus presentation times employed in most masking paradigms, which could prevent sufficient processing time in some cases or provide a gist of the masked stimulus in other cases. The present study examined the necessity of awareness in cognitive control using Continuous Flash Suppression (CFS) to suppress stimulus awareness for periods of time longer than possible with other masking paradigms. Cognitive control was evoked using flanker arrow tasks in two experiments, wherein participants were asked to respond to a target arrow during congruent, incongruent, and no-flanker conditions. In the first experiment, one eye was presented with the flanker arrows while the opposite eye was presented with the target arrow alone (unmasked condition) or with CFS (masked condition). In the second experiment, CFS was presented in the same eye as the target arrow on every trial but the flanker arrows were displayed in either the same eye (unmasked condition) or opposite eye (masked condition) as the CFS and target arrow. Both experiments showed significantly slowed response times (RTs) for incongruent flankers relative to congruent flankers during unmasked trials, indicating a conflict effect. However, in masked trials, RTs were not significantly different between congruent and incongruent flanker conditions. These results suggest that cognitive control is not recruited when awareness of conflicting information is suppressed.

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