Speeding before and slowing after errors: Is it all just strategy?

Carolin Dudschig, Ines Jentzsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


People are usually faster before and slower after committing an error. This finding has traditionally been explained by strategic changes of response criteria to less or more conservative thresholds. This idea has been implemented in current cognitive control frameworks, where it is proposed that high or low levels of processing conflict can dynamically change these response thresholds to achieve optimal performance. However, recent evidence suggests that evaluation of conflict is time consuming and can potentially interfere with subsequent processing [Jentzsch, I., Dudschig, C., 2009. Why do we slow down after an error? Mechanisms underlying the effects of posterror slowing. Quarterly journal of Experimental Psychology, 62, 209-218]. The present study aims to extend this finding by investigating whether similar mechanisms underlie effects of pre-error speeding and posterror slowing and whether the amplitude of the Ne/ERN predicts posterror slowing in the current task setting. The response stimulus interval (RSI) was systematically manipulated. Speed-up in pre-error trials was unaffected by RSI, suggesting that this effect is not the result of strategic, time-consuming control processes. Posterror slowing dramatically increased and performance became more error prone with decreasing RSI, providing further evidence for the idea that error evaluation can produce substantial interference with subsequent trial processing, particularly when there is insufficient time between the error and the subsequent event. importantly, we did not find a positive relationship between the RSI-dependent change in posterror slowing and the Ne/ERN amplitude, questioning a direct link between the amplitude of this component and the amount of subsequent performance adjustments. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-62
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2009


  • Posterror slowing
  • Control adjustment
  • Ne
  • ERN
  • Cognitive control
  • Pre-error speeding


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