Jason Ralph/Michel Brudzinski, Grad Students

Jason Ralph/Michel Brudzinski, Grad Students





Cognitive control optimally adapts human behavior to its experienced environments. Cognition coordinates attention and action to perform tasks through the activity of goal representations. Humans can pursue a wide array of behavioral goals. Cognitive control is the adaptation of goal selection to environmental opportunities in order to minimize costs and maximize the rewards of behavior. Cognitive control emerges from the interaction of four mechanisms: (1) contextual binding, (2) cost monitoring, (3) concentrated activation, and (4) cue exploitation.


I will focus on the central role of contextual binding amongst the mecha- nisms of cognitive control. Contextual binding encodes the statistical regularities of task environments into goal representations in memory. Cost monitoring detects the inefficiencies of contextual binding. Concentrated activation overcomes the un- certainties of contextual binding. Cue exploitation utilizes the pattern completion properties of contextual binding.


I will argue that cognitive control is best explained in terms of environmental differences in contextual adaptation as opposed to individual differences in cogni- tive control mode. An understanding of variation in cognitive control is essential to explain phenomena such as multitasking, task-switching, interruptions, action errors, cognitive workload, action selection, attention-deficits, and schizophrenia. Whereas individual difference explanations emphasize the stability of performance constraints, a contextual adaptation account emphasizes the adaptability of task performance.