Affective modulation of executive functions : does it happen?
Executive functions describe some of the most important human abilities that allow flexible and stable processing and behaviour at the same time. A commonly used paradigm to examine such cognitive control processes is the task-switching paradigm. It allows calculating two measures: switch costs and backward inhibition. Switch costs are supposed to reflect the processing demands and endogenous task-set reconfigurations that are necessary to flexibly switch between multiple tasks. Backward inhibition is said to be a measure for inhibition of recently abandoned task-sets that makes task switching possible. The aim of the study was to examine influences of affective stimulation on executive functions in form of switch costs and backward inhibition. In a first block of experiments positive, neutral, and negative valent pictures were used on a trial by trial basis before every task as affective stimulation. However, even after making the valent content of the pictures more important for the tasks, a consistent pattern of affective modulation of switch costs and backward inhibition could not be found. In a second block of experiments valent feedback after every task was used as affective stimulation. Feedback is supposed to be a stronger affective element because it is relevant for example with regard to goals. Again, an affective modulation of switch costs and backward inhibition was also not found with this method. Considering the results of the current study executive functions represented by switch costs and backward inhibition do not seem to be modulated by affect.
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