Positive affect is generally associated with improvements in cognitive abilities; however, few studies have addressed positive affect and its relation to specific cognitive control processes. Previous research suggests positive affect conditions are more flexible/distractible states, suggesting cognitive control processes are perhaps decreased in context maintenance and increased in conflict detection/resolution. To measure the cognitive control processes, specific components of the scalp-recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) called the cue slow wave (context maintenance), the N450 (conflict detection), and conflict SP (conflict resolution) were acquired in response to an affective single-trial, cued-Stroop task. Participants were presented with pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant images prior to Stroop instruction (i.e., respond to "color" or "word") and response. Participants had greater accuracy during the pleasant condition when given a longer delay for extra time to process the high conflict task, t(36) = 3.09, p = .004, 95% CI (0.07, 0.02) compared to the unpleasant condition. Additionally, the unpleasant condition resulted in greater context maintenance than pleasant (increased cue-related slow wave amplitude; t(40) = 2.38, p = .02). Unpleasant conditions were associated with greater conflict resolution processes (as measured by the conflict SP) with high conflict trials, t(40) = 2.55, p = .015; whereas pleasant did in congruent trials, t(40) = 2.707, p = .010. Findings suggest negative affective states increase participants' focus on the task in avoidance of the distracting unpleasant picture. Our findings lay the foundation for understanding the differences between state and trait affect on cognitive control processes.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Psychology



Date Submitted


Document Type





context maintenance, conflict detection/resolution, affective conditions, event-related potential

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Psychology Commons