Date of Award

Winter 12-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



The color-word Stroop task is often used in cognitive neuroscience as a common platform for both theoretical and experimental approaches to cognitive control. Yet traditionally, there has been tension between these two approaches. Theoretical models of Stroop have focused on representation: for example, how distributed and overlapping representations of the two stimulus dimensions (color, word) are prioritized, and how conflict between these dimen- sions is represented and used to regulate control. In contrast, neuroimaging experiments have primarily focused on ‘univariately’ (uniformly) mapping the effects of conflict to par- ticular brain regions. This focus on univariate changes in brain activity limits the specificity with which neural representations can be measured — which limits the bearing of results on representational models. To address this limitation, the current study provides a novel, ret- rospective application of representational similarity analysis (RSA), a multivariate analytic approach that enables specification and comparison of representational models, to functional magnetic resonance imaging data acquired while participants (N=49) performed the classic color-word Stroop task. Through RSA, we disentangled coding of the target (color naming), distractor (word reading), and congruency (conflict) dimensions across cortex, observing ro- bust and predicted dissociations in the neuroanatomical profile, representational structure, and functional relevance of these distinct coding schemes. These results highlight the utility of RSA as tool for addressing key questions in cognitive control, and we provide guidance on how to apply, both retrospectively and prospectively, this technique in neuroimaging.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Dr. Todd Braver

Committee Members

Dr. Julie Bugg Dr. Jeff Zacks


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/07m4-gx42