Cognitive control refers to the processes that permit selection and prioritization of information processing in different cognitive domains to reach the capacity-limited conscious mind. Although previous studies have suggested that the capacity of cognitive control itself is limited, a direct quantification of this capacity has not been attempted. In this behavioral study, we manipulated the information rate of cognitive control by parametrically varying both the uncertainty of stimul measured as information entropy and the exposure time of the stimuli. We used the relationship between the participants’ response accuracy and the information rate of cognitive control (in bits per second, bps) in the model fitting to estimate the capacity of cognitive control. We found that the capacity of cognitive control was approximately 3 to 4 bps, demonstrating that cognitive control as a higher-level function has a remarkably low capacity. This quantification of the capacity of cognitive control may have significant theoretical and clinical implications.
Wu, Tingting; Dufford, Alexander J.; Mackie, Melissa-Ann; Egan, Laura J.; and Fan, Jin, "The Capacity of Cognitive Control Estimated from a Perceptual Decision Making Task" (2016). CUNY Academic Works.