Neutral affordances: Task conflict in the affordances task

Ran Littman*, Eyal Kalanthroff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Task conflict emerges when a stimulus triggers two or more competing tasks. To date, task conflict has been studied mainly using the color-word Stroop task. We hypothesized that task conflict also emerges in the affordances task between the goal-directed relevant task (e.g., classifying manipulable objects such as cups and pots), and the automatic, stimulus-driven, irrelevant task afforded by these objects (e.g., grasping their handles). Thus, we expected task conflict to manifest in both congruent and incongruent trials, separately from the well-known affordances response conflict that manifests in incongruent trials between responding with the right vs. the left hand. To this end, we aimed to identify a neutral condition for the affordances task. In Experiment 1, participants performed an affordances task that included images of manipulable objects and houses. While manipulable objects evoke automatic grasping tendencies, house images were hypothesized to serve as neutral, conflict-free stimuli. House images yielded shorter reaction time (RT) than incongruent trials, indicating that they may serve as neutral stimuli for the task. House images also yielded shorter RT than congruent trials, suggesting that task conflict manifests in congruent (as well as in incongruent) affordances trials. In Experiment 2 we manipulated cognitive control in the affordance task by creating low-control and high-control blocks. While both congruent and incongruent trials were impacted by this manipulation of cognitive control, neutral trials remained unaffected. These findings indicate that the affordances task involves conflicts at both the task level and the level of response, and can be used as a supplementary, non-linguistic measure of task conflict and the activation of task control.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number103262
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Inc.


  • Affordances
  • Cognitive control
  • Manipulable objects
  • Stimulus-driven behavior
  • Task conflict
  • Task control


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