General Area: Individual Differences in Cognitive Control
"Cognitive Control" refers to our ability to inhibit unwanted thoughts or actions in order to better focus on relevant thoughts or actions: for instance, even though the traffic light has just turned green, most of us would hopefully by able to hit the brake instead of the gas pedal when a pedestrian suddenly steps out onto the street. Consequently, such cognitive control is tested in so-called response conflict paradigms, where participants are systematically confronted with conflicting information about upcoming actions. We will investigate the extent to which individual differences affect cognitive control abilities in such tasks.
Possible projects (examples only):
Below are examples of potential project topics, with some suggestions for initial readings (note: all articles are available as full-text documents via ISI Web of Science)
1. Power, Sex, & Cognitive Control
- Dardenne, B., Dumont, M., & Bollier, T. (2007). Insidious dangers of benevolent sexism: Consequences for women's performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 764-779.
- Smith, P. K., Jostmann, N. B., Galinsky, A. D., & van Dijk, W. W. (2008). Lacking power impairs executive functions. Psychological Science, 19, 441-447.
A fairly easy and straight-forward way to experimentally investigate cognitive control is to use computer-based response conflict paradigms, where participants have to quickly and accurately respond to one type of information while ignoring another. Well-studied examples include the Simon task, the Eriksen flanker task, the Stroop task, and response priming tasks. Some of these paradigms probe voluntary or conscious cognitive control (e.g., the Simon task; other examples are the stop-signal paradigm and the go/nogo task). Other paradigms can be used to probe non-conscious or involuntary response inhibition. The masked prime paradigm that I use in my lab is particularly useful for this, especially as it can be easily combined with conscious-inhibition paradigms in a hybrid task: This then allows us to investigate if some factor of interest (for instance, age) affects conscious and non-conscious cognitive control similarly, or differentially.
Alternative projects / methodologies:
Please note that these are meant as examples only. Obviously, if you have your own ideas on how to tackle these questions, or if you have a completely different question that you are desperately keen to investigate, I'm open to suggestions!