Exploring individual differences in task switching

Li, B., Li, X., Stoet, G. and Lages, M. (2019) Exploring individual differences in task switching. Acta Psychologica, 193, pp. 80-95. (doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2018.12.010) (PMID:30599293)

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Previous research has shown that there are significant task-switching costs even when participants have time to prepare for task switching after cueing. We investigated individual differences in task switching by monitoring errors and response times of individual participants. In Experiment 1A, 58 participants were encouraged to finish the session early by completing 200 consecutive trials without making an error. In case of a mistake, they had to repeat their effort until the experimental session expired. Using this demanding procedure, 16 participants managed to complete early. Among these 16 we identified 9 best performers who showed no significant switch costs. We conducted follow-up Experiment 1B on these best performers by systematically varying cue-stimulus intervals and inter-trial intervals. The results confirmed that these participants had no significant RT and ER switch costs when they had time to prepare the task between cue and target onset. However, significant switch costs emerged when cue and target stimulus were presented simultaneously. In Experiment 1C, using three classical task-switching paradigms, we compared the best performers with 9 controls who had made frequent errors in Experiment 1A. Although the best performers responded faster and made fewer errors, they only showed reduced switch costs in a pre-cued paradigm that had been extensively practiced. In two other paradigms with simultaneous presentation of cue and target stimulus, best performers had switch costs and showed considerable individual differences similar to the controls. We conclude that there are considerable individual differences in task switching and that smaller individual switch costs are mainly related to efficient task preparation. We speculate that efficient task preparation may be linked to better executive control and general intelligence.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:M.L. was supported by Erasmus+ KA2 strategic partnership Tools for Teaching quantitative Thinking TquanT 172258-01 EC (013819).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Lages, Dr Martin and Li, Xiangqian and Li, Bingxin and Stoet, Dr Gijsbert
Authors: Li, B., Li, X., Stoet, G., and Lages, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Robert Owen Centre
Journal Name:Acta Psychologica
ISSN (Online):1873-6297
Published Online:30 December 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier B.V.
First Published:First published in Acta Psychologica 193:80-95
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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