A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them

Ecclesiastes 3:5

Natural Systems of Mind

Guide for editor

We envisage that cognitive control processes select competing representations in working memory as individuals seek to achieve their intended goals. The targets of these control processes differ: they may be verbal or nonverbal representations. In consequence, disruption of the neural linkage between the regions involved in control and the specific target of control can give rise to dissociations in performance despite a set of common control processes.

Prior research indicates that deviations from required performance (e.g., overt errors or delays in responding) trigger control processes that serve to bring behaviour more in line with what is required (e.g., Botvinick, Cohen, & Carter, 2004). So, for example, individuals respond more slowly to the direction of a target arrow when it is flanked by arrows pointing in the opposite direction. However, this conflict effect is reduced when an incongruent stimulus is presented on an immediate subsequent trial. Neuroimaging work implicates a feedback circuit in which signals from a midfrontal neural region (i.e., the anterior cingulate cortex) that detects conflict trigger a response in a left inferior frontal region that serves to suppress interference (e.g., Kerns et al., 2004). We argue for the stronger hypothesis, the adaptive control hypothesis, in which the processes of control themselves adapt to the demands placed upon them. For bilingual speakers the interactional context in which they find themselves drives the adaptive response. Why might control processes adapt? One reason, we suggest, is that there is an interactional cost in not doing so. We look at this cost in a later section.