Theories of cognitive control argue that response conflict in speeded performance tasks leads to adaptive changes, such that irrelevant information is better ignored on subsequent trials. This study tested whether trial‐by‐trial changes are driven primarily by conflict on incongruent trials or instead by congruent trials, in which irrelevant and relevant stimulus dimensions match. In a Stroop task including congruent, incongruent, and neutral trials, interference was greater following congruent compared to incongruent and neutral trials, which did not differ. During the intertrial interval, EEG alpha power, an inverse measure of cerebral activation, was significantly lower following congruent than neutral trials, whereas incongruent and neutral trials did not differ. These results imply that trial‐by‐trial changes in performance may not be driven solely by conflict, but rather by changes in attention triggered by congruent information.
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