Cognitive control enables successful goal-directed behavior by resolving a conflict between opposing action tendencies, while emotional control arises as a consequence of emotional conflict processing such as in irony. While negative emotion facilitates both cognitive and emotional conflict processing, it is unclear how emotional conflict processing is affected by positive emotion (e.g., humor). In 2 EEG experiments, we investigated the role of positive audiovisual target stimuli in cognitive and emotional conflict processing. Participants categorized either spoken vowels (cognitive task) or their emotional valence (emotional task) and ignored the visual stimulus dimension. Behaviorally, a positive target showed no influence on cognitive conflict processing, but impeded emotional conflict processing. In the emotional task, response time conflict costs were higher for positive than for neutral targets. In the EEG, we observed an interaction of emotion by congruence in the P200 and N200 ERP components in emotional but not in cognitive conflict processing. In the emotional conflict task, the P200 and N200 conflict effect was larger for emotional than neutral targets. Thus, our results show that emotion affects conflict processing differently as a function of conflict type and emotional valence. This suggests that there are conflict- and valence-specific mechanisms modulating executive control.
- Journal Article