Cognitive Dynamics Lab

The Interplay Between
Learning and Control

As important as learning and memory are for every aspect of our lives, they are also often the enemy of flexibility. Thus, viewing learning and control in concert is key for a better understanding of human flexibility and under which circumstances learning hinders and when it helps control (e,g., Mayr & Bryck, 2005).

For example, in our work we investigate what type of memory traces are established when individuals operate in demanding situations and in what way they influence performance (Mayr, Awh, & Bryck, in prep; Mayr, Awh, & Laurey, 2003; Mayr & Bryck, 2005). One interesting idea arising from our work is that strong between-task competition (e.g., when a non-dominant task needs to be performed in the face of direct competition from a dominant task) will actually lead to better learning (of the non-dominant task; e.g., Bryck & Mayr, under review). Another interesting consequence of the interplay between memory and flexibility is that flexible changes between tasks are actually easier when different tasks are associated with different contexts, such as different screen locations (Mayr & Bryck, 2006). Such situations allow "outsourcing of control" to the environment. This general perspective is also heavily intertwined with our interest in executive control problems associated with aging.

Stimuli and tasks used in Mayr & Bryck (2005) allow to examine to what degree learning and priming of S-R links generalizes across different abstract rules. For example, the upper left circle position requires the same response under the "horizontal" and the "clockwise" rule.


Mayr, U., Awh, E., & Laurey, P. (2003). Does conflict adaptation require executive control? Nature Neuroscience, 6, 450-452. PDF

Mayr, U., & Bryck, R.L. (2005). Sticky rules: Integration between abstract rules and specific actions.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 31, 337-350. PDF

Spieler, D., Mayr, U., & LaGrone, S. (in press). Outsourcing cognitive control to the environment: Adult age differences i the use of task cues. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. PDF

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