Get access

The dynamics of cognitive control: Evidence for within-trial conflict adaptation from frequency-tagged EEG


  • This research was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG; Grant Go720/3-3). We thank Simon Frisch for data collection and the editor and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of the article.

Address correspondence to: Stefan Scherbaum, Department of Psychology, Technische Universität Dresden, Zellescher Weg 17, 01062 Dresden, Germany. E-mail:


A central topic in the cognitive sciences is how cognitive control is adapted flexibly to changing task demands. Conflict monitoring theory originally proposed conflict triggered adjustments of cognitive control after a conflict trial to improve subsequent performance. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that readjustments of cognitive control occur continuously within a conflict trial itself. Using frequency tagged electroencephalogram in a flanker task, we traced the allocation of attention to target and distracter stimuli. We found evidence for a conflict-triggered within-trial contrast enhancement dissociating target and distracters. This contrast enhancement vanished for consecutive trials with constant tagging frequencies, indicating that trial-to-trial conflict adaptation effects may, at least partly, be the product of interacting processes serving conflict resolution within trials.