Conflict-related cognitive processes are critical for adapting to sudden environmental changes that confront the individual with inconsistent or ambiguous information. Thus, these processes play a crucial role to cope with daily life. Generally, conflicts tend to accumulate especially in complex and threatening situations. Therefore, the question arises how conflict-related cognitive processes are modulated by the close succession of conflicts. In the present study, we investigated the effect of interactions between different types of conflict on performance as well as on electrophysiological parameters. A task-irrelevant auditory stimulus and a task-relevant visual stimulus were presented successively. The auditory stimulus consisted of a standard or deviant tone, followed by a congruent or incongruent Stroop stimulus. After standard prestimuli, performance deteriorated for incongruent compared to congruent Stroop stimuli, which were accompanied by a widespread negativity for incongruent versus congruent stimuli in the event-related potentials (ERPs). However, after deviant prestimuli, performance was better for incongruent than for congruent Stroop stimuli and an additional early negativity in the ERP emerged with a fronto-central maximum. Our data show that deviant auditory prestimuli facilitate specifically the processing of stimulus-related conflict, providing evidence for a conflict-priming effect.

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