Learning from mistakes: Incidental encoding reveals a time-dependent enhancement of posterror target processing.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

It has been known for >50 years that making an error leads to subsequent changes in performance, yet the exact nature of posterror adjustments in cognition remains debated. We posit that this is in large part due to traditional performance indices, like mean posterror response time and accuracy, being insensitive measures of trial-by-trial stimulus processing. To overcome this limitation, we devised a novel object flanker task that employed trial-unique target and distracter stimuli and was followed by a surprise recognition memory test. This allowed us to determine how errors influence incidental target and distracter encoding in a trial-specific manner. We used this approach to test the "adaptive orienting theory" of posterror processing, according to which an error triggers an initial inhibition of task processing-facilitating orienting to the error source-followed by a controlled retuning of attention to the task. To characterize the time-course of the posterror processing cascade, we combined our task with a manipulation of the response-stimulus interval (RSI), across four experiments (RSIs: 300 ms, 650 ms, ~1,000 ms; N = 96-100 per experiment). We document, for the first time, that making an error leads to a substantial (~10%) enhancement of target (but not distracter) memory on the subsequent trial, which interacts with RSI: Posterror targets were remembered better than postcorrect targets at the long (650 ms, ~1,000 ms) but not the short (300 ms) RSIs. These findings provide clear support for the adaptive orienting theory by demonstrating a novel cognitive phenomenon: a time-dependent posterror enhancement of target encoding (PETE). (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gjorgieva, E; Egner, T

Published Date

  • March 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 151 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 718 - 730

PubMed ID

  • 35499849

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-2222

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0096-3445

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/xge0001105


  • eng