Many studies have investigated how exclusion affects cognitive control and have reported inconsistent results. However, these studies usually treated cognitive control as a unitary concept, whereas it actually involved two main sub-processes: conflict detection and response implementation. Furthermore, existing studies have focused primarily on exclusion’s effects on conscious cognitive control, while recent studies have shown the existence of unconscious cognitive control. Therefore, the present study investigated whether and how exclusion affects the sub-processes underlying conscious and unconscious cognitive control differently. The Cyberball game was used to manipulate social exclusion and participants subsequently performed a masked Go/No-Go task during which event-related potentials were measured. For conscious cognitive control, excluded participants showed a larger N2 but smaller P3 effects than included participants, suggesting that excluded people invest more attention in conscious conflict detection, but less in conscious inhibition of impulsive responses. However, for unconscious cognitive control, excluded participants showed a smaller N2 but larger P3 effects than included participants, suggesting that excluded people invest less attention in unconscious conflict detection, but more in unconscious inhibition of impulsive responses. Together, these results suggest that exclusion causes people to rebalance attention allocation priorities for cognitive control according to a more flexible and adaptive strategy.
Xu, Mengsi; Li, Zhiai; Diao, Liuting; Zhang, Lijie; Yuan, Jiajin; Ding, Cody; and Yang, Dong, "Social Exclusion Modulates Priorities of Attention Allocation in Cognitive Control" (2016). Education Sciences and Professional Programs Faculty Works. 7.