Backward inhibition is posited to aid task switching by counteracting the tendency to repeat a recent task. Evidence that factors such as cue transparency affect backward inhibition seems to imply that it is generated during task preparation, making its absence following trials on which a prepared task was not performed (nogo trials) surprising. However, the nogo method used in previous studies might have prevented detection of preparation-driven effects. We used a truncated-trial method instead, omitting stages of a trial with no need for a nogo signal. In Experiment 1, an n – 2 repetition cost (suggested to indicate backward inhibition) followed trials truncated after response selection, indicating that response execution is not necessary to trigger backward inhibition. In Experiments 2 and 3, no n – 2 repetition cost was obtained following trials truncated after cue presentation. To ensure some task preparation on cue-only trials, Experiment 4 used a double-registration procedure where participants responded to the task cue and the target on each trial. In contrast to Experiments 2 and 3, a small n – 2 repetition cost followed trials truncated after cue responses, affecting cue responses on the current trial. In addition, the n – 2 repetition cost was increased at cue responses and became evident at target responses when the preceding trial also involved a target response. These results imply that backward inhibition might be generated by processes occurring up to and including a cue response, affecting subsequent cue responses, as well as during task performance itself, affecting subsequent cue and target responses.
We would like to thank Carrie Mackintosh, Nerhys Walters, Mihret Gay, and Celine Borrow for assistance with data collection. Experiments 3 and 4 were supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/R005613/1]. For the purpose of open access, the authors have applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising.
Data Availability StatementData availability
The data for Experiment 1 can be requested by emailing the corresponding author: email@example.com.
The data for Experiment 2 and the experiment described in Online Resource 1 can be accessed at https://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-855962. The data for Experiments 3 and 4 can be accessed at https://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-854753. The preregistration for Experiment 3 can be found at https://aspredicted.org/jn74y.pdf and the preregistration for Experiment 4 at https://aspredicted.org/769eh.pdf.
Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-022-01780-x
- backward inhibition
- task switching
- cognitive control
- cue-only trials