Effects of Reward and Punishment on Conflict Processing: Same or Different?

  •  Aitao Lu    
  •  Ling Yang    
  •  Shulan Hu    
  •  Yulan Shao    
  •  Honghong Zhang    
  •  Lili Liu    


While it is commonly known that reward and punishment are two effective motivators of behavior, little is
known about the underlying mechanisms of reward and punishment in conflict processing. Here, we examined
what roles reward and punishment played in this cognitive process by using a revised version of Stroop task.
Confining to incongruent trials, explicit reward association in task-relevant dimension obstructed the processing
of conflict information in Experiment 1, while the explicit punishment association in task-relevant dimension
enhanced the conflict processing relative to the no-punishment condition in Experiment 2, suggesting the
mechanisms of reward and punishment are different from each other with the possible involvement of
particularly used strategy. Additionally, both reward associations and punishment associations to task-irrelevant
dimension showed faster response time in conflict processing, which likely reflected the roles of reward and
punishment were the same when they were implicitly related to conflict processing. Such results document that
the effects of reward and punishment on conflict processing are modulated by the involvement of consciousness,
supporting the flexible roles of reward and punishment in conflict processing.

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