Mistakes are common to all forms of behavior but there is disagreement about what causes errors. We recorded electrophysiological and behavioral measures in a letter discrimination task to examine whether deficits in preparatory attention predicted subsequent response errors. Error trials were characterized by decreased frontal-central preparatory attention event-related potentials (ERPs) prior to stimulus presentation and decreased extrastriate sensory ERPs during visual processing. These findings indicate that transient lapses in a prefrontal-extrastriate preparatory attention network can lead to response errors.

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