Multinomial processing trees as theoretical bridges between cognitive and social psychology

Jimmy Calanchini, Andrew M. Rivers, Karl Christoph Klauer, Jeffrey Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Cognitive and social psychologists have long investigated dual-process theories of automaticity and control. These theories seek to explain and predict the conditions under which people can intentionally control their judgments and behavior in the face of impulses produced by biasing and distracting incidental stimuli. Based on this dual-process perspective, cognitive and social psychologists have developed tasks that create conditions under which impulses act in parallel or in opposition to control-oriented processes—commonly referred to as response conflict tasks. Though the response conflict tasks used by cognitive and social psychologists are often structurally similar, researchers from the two disciplines often interpret performance on such tasks in very different ways: Cognitive psychologists tend to focus on the contributions of control-oriented processes, whereas social psychologists generally focus on the contributions of activated mental associations. Both of these interpretations rest on assumptions of process purity: that a response conflict task reflects either control-oriented processes or mental associations. However, this assumption is untenable. Both types of mental processes jointly influence behavioral responses on most response conflict tasks. Multinomial processing tree models are well suited to assess the contributions of multiple cognitive processes to response conflict tasks commonly used in cognitive and social psychology. In this chapter, we review the applications of multinomial processing trees to response conflict tasks, and highlight their utility in bridging interpretive divides that separate cognitive and social psychologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • Attitudes
  • Cognition
  • Memory
  • Multinomial processing trees
  • Social cognition
  • Unconscious/automatic processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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