Evidence for different types of errors being associated with different types of post-error changes


Errors in simple choice tasks result in systematic changes in the response time and accuracy of subsequent trials. We propose that there are at least two different causes of choice errors – response speed and evidence quality, which result in different types of post-error changes. We explore these differences in types of errors and post-error changes in two recognition memory experiments with speed versus accuracy emphasis conditions that differentially produce response-speed and evidence-quality errors. Under conditions that give rise to more response-speed errors, we find evidence of traditional post-error slowing. Under conditions that give rise to evidence-quality errors, we find evidence of post-error speeding. We propose a broadening of theories of cognitive control to encompass maladaptive as well as adaptive strategies, and discuss implications for the use of post-error changes to measure cognitive control.

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    Oddball tasks have been used to provide further support for an orientation component to post-error slowing, as when irrelevant auditory cues are provided, responses following novel cues are slower and less accurate than responses following non-novel cue (but not slower and less accurate than uncued responses, suggesting the benefit of a cue may be diminished if the cue is novel; Parmentier & Andres, 2010). Parmentier, Vasilev, and Andres (2019) also found an interaction effect for post-error slowing and auditory cue type (novel vs. non-novel), further suggesting an orientation effect may contribute to post-error slowing for tasks with auditory cues.


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Karlye Damaso and Paul Williams would like to acknowledge the Department of Education and Training for provisions of Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarships during periods of manuscript preparation. Andrew Heathcote would like to acknowledge Australian Research Council grant DP160101891 for supporting his work on this project.

The data used in this manuscript have been made available on OSF. The data were not from preregistered experiments.

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Correspondence to Karlye Damaso.

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Karlye Damaso and Paul Williams share first author position.

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Damaso, K., Williams, P. & Heathcote, A. Evidence for different types of errors being associated with different types of post-error changes. Psychon Bull Rev 27, 435–440 (2020). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-019-01675-w

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  • Choice behavior
  • Cognitive control and automaticity