The emotive nature of conflict monitoring in the medial prefrontal cortex

Blair Saunders, Hause Lin, Marina Milyavskaya, Michael Inzlicht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The detection of conflict between incompatible impulses, thoughts, and actions is a ubiquitous source of motivation across theories of goal-directed action. In this overview, we explore the hypothesis that conflict is emotive, integrating perspectives from affective science and cognitive neuroscience. Initially, we review evidence suggesting that the mental and biological processes that monitor for information processing conflict-particularly those generated by the anterior midcingulate cortex-track the affective significance of conflict and use this signal to motivate increased control. In this sense, variation in control resembles a form of affect regulation in which control implementation counteracts the aversive experience of conflict. We also highlight emerging evidence proposing that states and dispositions associated with acceptance facilitate control by tuning individuals to the emotive nature of conflict, before proposing avenues for future research, including investigating the role of affect in reinforcement learning and decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Early online date11 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • Emotion
  • Cognitive control
  • Motivation
  • Event-related potentials
  • Negative affect
  • Medial prefrontal cortex


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