Task-switching costs disappear if non-Chinese participants respond to Chinese characters

Li, X., Li, B., Liu, X., Lages, M. and Stoet, G. (2019) Task-switching costs disappear if non-Chinese participants respond to Chinese characters. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45(11), pp. 2051-2071. (doi: 10.1037/xlm0000692) (PMID:30730179)

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Abstract

In experiments with univalent target stimuli, task-switching costs can be eliminated if participants are unaware of the task rules and apply cue-target-response associations. However, in experiments with bivalent target stimuli, participants show task-switching costs. Participants may exhibit switch costs even when no task rules are provided in the instructions because they can infer the task rules. We tested this prediction by controlling the meaningfulness of cues and targets and therefore the ability to apply the task rules in 2 groups of participants. We compared the performance of Chinese and non-Chinese participants, who responded to Chinese numerals in an odd/even and high/low number task. In Experiment 1, Chinese participants, who knew Chinese characters and understood the task rules, showed task-switching costs. Non-Chinese participants on the other hand, who did not know Chinese characters, exhibited no switch costs. They applied a 'target-first' strategy which means that they processed the target stimulus before the cue. In Experiment 2, we confirmed the absence of task-switching costs in Chinese participants using traditional Chinese numerals as target stimuli. Further, to determine how the target-first strategy affects switch costs, we manipulated the sequence of cue and target presentations. We conclude that task-switching costs can be eliminated more easily than previously thought, even for bivalent stimuli. The occurrence of task-switching costs depends on the approach used by participants and this may answer the puzzling question why humans typically do show task-switching costs whereas pigeons and monkeys do not.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Stoet, Dr Gijsbert and Lages, Dr Martin and Li, Bingxin
Authors: Li, X., Li, B., Liu, X., Lages, M., and Stoet, G.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Robert Owen Centre
Journal Name:Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0278-7393
ISSN (Online):1939-1285
Published Online:07 February 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © American Psychological Association 2019
First Published:First published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 45(11):2051-2071
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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