This article is part of the Research Topic Cognitive and Affective Control


Front. Psychol., 15 September 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00233

Post-error adjustments

  • 1 Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands
  • 2 Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research, Cologne, Germany

When our brain detects an error, this process changes how we react on ensuing trials. People show post-error adaptations, potentially to improve their performance in the near future. At least three types of behavioral post-error adjustments have been observed. These are post-error slowing (PES), post-error reduction of interference, and post-error improvement in accuracy (PIA). Apart from these behavioral changes, post-error adaptations have also been observed on a neuronal level with functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography. Neuronal post-error adaptations comprise activity increase in task-relevant brain areas, activity decrease in distracter-encoding brain areas, activity modulations in the motor system, and mid-frontal theta power increases. Here, we review the current literature with respect to these post-error adjustments, discuss under which circumstances these adjustments can be observed, and whether the different types of adjustments are linked to each other. We also evaluate different approaches for explaining the functional role of PES. In addition, we report reanalyzed and follow-up data from a flanker task and a moving dots interference task showing (1) that PES and PIA are not necessarily correlated, (2) that PES depends on the response–stimulus interval, and (3) that PES is reliable on a within-subject level over periods as long as several months.

Keywords: post-error slowing, post-error reduction of interference, post-error improvement in accuracy, cognitive control, orienting response, inhibition, posterior medial frontal cortex

Citation: Danielmeier C and Ullsperger M (2011) Post-error adjustments. Front. Psychology 2:233. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00233

Received: 30 June 2011; Paper pending published: 12 July 2011;
Accepted: 29 August 2011; Published online: 15 September 2011.

Edited by:

Wim Notebaert, Ghent University, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Mattie Tops, University of Groningen, Netherlands
James F. Cavanagh, Brown University, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Danielmeier and Ullsperger. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Claudia Danielmeier, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University, Montessorilaan 3, 6525 HR Nijmegen, Netherlands. e-mail:

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