The subjective experience of response conflict: A study on the neural timecourse of metacognition

Kobe Desender, Filip Van Opstal, Gethin Hughes, Eva Van Den Bussche

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferencePoster


In recent years, neuroscience has spent much effort to reveal the underpinnings of metacognition. Several imaging studies have already shed light on the specific brain areas playing an important role in metacognitive experiences. However, surprisingly little research has examined the neural time course of these experiences. In a masked priming paradigm, we induced subjective experiences of difficulty by manipulating congruency between prime and target. As expected, participants more frequently rated incompatible trials as difficult and compatible trials as easy, while being completely unable to perceive the masked primes. Our EEG recordings showed a classical conflict N2 component which was modulated only by prime-target compatibility. Crucially, the following central positive deflection around 300-400 ms post-target onset (P3) was modulated by both prime-target compatibility and subjective experience. Source localization pointed to the precuneus as neural correlate of metacognitive awareness on the P3. Our results suggest that the cognitive system first makes a rapid evaluation of trial difficulty (i.e., compatibility), independent of subjective experience or stimulus awareness. Only afterwards, participants can introspect on the consequences of this first phase, and metacognition kicks in.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2014
EventBelgian Brain Council 2014 - Ghent, Belgium
Duration: 4 Oct 20144 Oct 2014


ConferenceBelgian Brain Council 2014


  • metacognition

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