Methodological and empirical issues when dissociating cue-related from task-related processes in the explicit task-cuing procedure

Psychol Res. 2007 Jul;71(4):393-400. doi: 10.1007/s00426-005-0040-4. Epub 2006 Jan 6.


In the explicit cuing version of the task-switching paradigm, each individual task is indicated by a unique task cue. Consequently, a task switch is accompanied by a cue switch. Recently, it has been proposed that priming of cue encoding contributes to the empirically observed switch costs. This proposal was experimentally supported by using a 2:1 mapping of cues to tasks, so that a cue switch does not necessarily imply a task switch. The results indeed suggested a substantial contribution of "cue-switch costs" to task-switch costs. Here we argue that the 2:1 mapping potentially leads to an underestimation of "pure" task-switch costs. To support this argument, we report the results of a new study in which we used "transition cues" that indicate the identity of the current task based on the identity of the preceding task. This new type of cue allows a full factorial manipulation of cue switches and task switches because it includes the condition in which a cue repetition can also indicate a task switch (i.e., when the "switch" cue is repeated). We discuss the methodological implications and argue that the present approach has merits relative to the previously used 2:1 mapping of cues to tasks.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues*
  • Empirical Research*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Male
  • Psychology / methods*
  • Psychology / statistics & numerical data
  • Reaction Time*