Auditory Conflict Processing: Behavioral and Electrophysiologic Manifestations of the Stroop Effect

  • Henkin Y
  • Yaar-Soffer Y
  • Gilat S
 et al. 
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Background:One of the most extensively studied phenomena in cognitive neuroscience is the Stroopeffect. In an enormous corpus of literature, the Stroop task has been used to study conflict processing inthe visual modality; however, scarce data exist in the auditory modality.Purpose:The main goal of the present study was to investigate auditory conflict processing by means ofbehavioral and electrophysiologic measures elicited during standard and reversed Stroop tasks. A sec-ondary goal was to examine practice-related effects.Research Design:Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 16 adults during tasks requiringclassification of word meaning or speaker’s gender while ignoring the irrelevant (congruent or incongru-ent) speaker’s gender or word meaning, respectively. The behavioral measures, reaction time and per-formance accuracy, were simultaneously obtained.Results:Results indicated (1) a significant behavioral Stroop effect manifested by prolonged reactiontime and reduced performance accuracy. In contrast, ERP latencies were unaffected by the processing ofincongruent versus congruent stimuli, supporting postperceptual conflict processing associated withresponse selection and execution; (2) reduced N1 amplitude while processing incongruent versus con-gruent stimuli; (3) similar behavioral Stroop effects in both tasks together with nonsignificant task by stim-ulus type (incongruent, congruent) interactions for N1 and N4; (4) significantly prolonged N4 and reactiontime together with reduced N1 amplitude in the speaker’s gender task (to both congruent and incongruentstimuli) compared to those found in the word meaning task; and (5) practice-related improvement in pro-cessing efficacy based on enhanced N1 amplitude, as well as shorter N4 and reaction time.Conclusions:Auditory conflict processing was predominantly postperceptual and was located at theresponse selection and execution stages. Alterations in the N1 component, however, provided supportfor an auditory conflict-processing “signature” at the initial stages of the arrival of information to the audi-tory cortex. The current data indicate that speaker’s gender and word meaning intruded on one another ina similar fashion, supporting symmetry between standard and reversed auditory Stroop effects. None-theless, improved processing efficacy was evident while classifying word meaning. Utilization of thepresent methodology may prove advantageous for studying clinical populations exhibiting auditoryand/or linguistic processing deficits.

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  • Yael Henkin

  • Yifat Yaar-Soffer

  • Shlomo Gilat

  • Chava Muchnik

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