The neural basis of error detection: Conflict monitoring and the error-related negativity

Nick Yeung, Matthew M. Botvinick, Jonathan D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1506 Scopus citations


According to a recent theory, anterior cingulate cortex is sensitive to response conflict, the coactivation of mutually incompatible responses. The present research develops this theory to provide a new account of the error-related negativity (ERN), a scalp potential observed following errors. Connectionist simulations of response conflict in an attentional task demonstrated that the ERN - its timing and sensitivity to task parameters - can be explained in terms of the conflict theory. A new experiment confirmed predictions of this theory regarding the ERN and a second scalp potential, the N2, that is proposed to reflect conflict monitoring on correct response trials. Further analysis of the simulation data indicated that errors can be detected reliably on the basis of post-error conflict. It is concluded that the ERN can be explained in terms of response conflict and that monitoring for conflict may provide a simple mechanism for detecting errors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)931-959
Number of pages29
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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