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Keywords:

  • N2 amplitude;
  • Conflict monitoring;
  • Ingroup bias;
  • Social categorization

Abstract

Three largely independent lines of research have investigated experimental manipulations that influence the amplitude of the N2 component of the event-related brain potential (ERP), one linking heightened N2 amplitude to response conflict, another showing that N2 is sensitive to stimulus infrequency, and the third showing larger N2 amplitude during categorization of racial ingroup relative to racial outgroup targets. The purpose of this research was to investigate potential interactions between these three features on the amplitude of the N2. ERPs were recorded while participants completed a modified flanker task using pictures of ingroup and outgroup faces. Results showed a 3-way interaction, indicating that the N2 was largest for ingroup targets on high-conflict trials but only when such trials were relatively infrequent. Implications of these findings for theories of both conflict monitoring and person perception are discussed.