The heterogeneous world of congruency sequence effects: an update

Wout Duthoo, Elger L Abrahamse, Senne Braem, Carsten N Boehler, Wim Notebaert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Congruency sequence effects (CSEs) refer to the observation that congruency effects in conflict tasks are typically smaller following incongruent compared to following congruent trials. This measure has long been thought to provide a unique window into top-down attentional adjustments and their underlying brain mechanisms. According to the renowned conflict monitoring theory, CSEs reflect enhanced selective attention following conflict detection. Still, alternative accounts suggested that bottom-up associative learning suffices to explain the pattern of reaction times and error rates. A couple of years ago, a review by Egner (2007) pitted these two rivalry accounts against each other, concluding that both conflict adaptation and feature integration contribute to the CSE. Since then, a wealth of studies has further debated this issue, and two additional accounts have been proposed, offering intriguing alternative explanations. Contingency learning accounts put forward that predictive relationships between stimuli and responses drive the CSE, whereas the repetition expectancy hypothesis suggests that top-down, expectancy-driven control adjustments affect the CSE. In the present paper, we build further on the previous review (Egner, 2007) by summarizing and integrating recent behavioral and neurophysiological studies on the CSE. In doing so, we evaluate the relative contribution and theoretical value of the different attentional and memory-based accounts. Moreover, we review how all of these influences can be experimentally isolated, and discuss designs and procedures that can critically judge between them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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