Component processes in task switching

Cogn Psychol. 2000 Nov;41(3):211-53. doi: 10.1006/cogp.2000.0736.


Participants switched between two randomly ordered, two-choice reaction-time (RT) tasks, where an instructional cue preceded the target stimulus and indicated which task to execute. Task-switching cost dissipated passively while the participants waited for the instructional cue in order to know which task to execute (during the Response-Cue Interval). Switching cost was sharply reduced, but not abolished, when the participants actively prepared for the task switch in response to the instructional cue (during the Cue-Target Interval). The preparation for a task switch has shown not to be a by-product of general preparation by phasic alertness or predicting target onset. It is suggested that task-switching cost has at least three components reflecting (1) the passive dissipation of the previous task set, (2) the preparation of the new task set, and (3) a residual component.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Random Allocation
  • Reaction Time