Task-switch costs subsequent to cue-only trials

Rachel Swainson* (Corresponding Author), Douglas Martin, Laura Joy Prosser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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There is abundant evidence that there is a performance cost associated with switching between tasks. This “switch cost” has been postulated to be driven by task-performance on the preceding trial, but recent research challenges any necessary role of previous task performance in driving the cost. Across three experiments, we investigated whether it is difficult to switch from a task that was prepared but never performed. We replicated the finding of a switch cost following cue-only trials (involving no task-performance) whilst controlling for a potential cue-switching confound. This cost was larger than that following completed trials when preparation interval was short (300 msec) and it reduced significantly with a longer preparation interval (1000 msec) on the current trial. We also found that preparing only to attend to a particular visual dimension (colour or shape) was sufficient to drive a significant subsequent switch cost which appeared to be residual in nature; we speculate that this cost may reflect the persistence of unfulfilled task-intentions and/or a strategic slowing when consecutive intentions conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1453-1470
Number of pages18
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number8
Early online date7 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank Fiona Carr, Carmen Horne, and
Brigitta Toth for assistance with data collection.

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Funding information
The authors would like to thank the School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, for contributing funding for participant


  • task-switching
  • subsequent switch cost
  • preparation
  • stimulus-response mappings


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