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Task switching: the effect of task recency with dual- and single-affordance stimuli

Sumner, Petroc ORCID: and Ahmed, Lubna 2006. Task switching: the effect of task recency with dual- and single-affordance stimuli. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 59 (7) , pp. 1255-1276. 10.1080/02724980543000187

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When we switch to a new task, performance is transiently relatively poor, but improves dramatically after one trial. Such a “switch cost” may result from the preceding task being highly primed while the new task is not yet primed. This predicts that it should become more difficult to switch back to Task A when more trials of Task B have intervened. Such a lag effect has been found in some but not in most previous experiments, and to resolve this discrepancy we examined the effects of task lag with different stimuli. We found that when stimuli uniquely and clearly cued the task—minimizing the need for control—switch reaction time increased with task lag. However, when the need for control was increased by using similar or identical stimuli in the two tasks, this lag effect was abolished or reversed. Thus only when control processes are minimized can priming explain the difficulty of switching back from Task B to Task A. Second, we asked how the impact of control is mediated in conditions where it is not minimized. If it is mediated through altering the relative activation states of competing tasks, then as it becomes easier to do one task—the relative task-set activation state is tipped in that task's favour—it should always become harder to do the other task. On the other hand, if control bias affects switch performance directly, this relationship need not hold. We found that as it becomes easier to perform one task it can become easier, not harder, to switch to the competing task. Thus control bias must act directly on switch performance, rather than only through its influence on relative task-set activation.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1747-0218
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 09:37

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