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A more complete task-set reconfiguration in random than in predictable task switch

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Three experiments are presented that compare the cost found when switching from one task to another in two different conditions. In one of them, the tasks switch in predictable sequences. In the other condition, the tasks alternate at random. A smaller time cost is found in the random-switch condition when enough preparation time is allowed. Such an effect is due to the random-switch cost continuing to decrease with preparation time after the predictable-switch cost has reached an asymptote. Although the relationship between number of repetitions of one task and time cost is different in the random- and the predictable-switch conditions, only the latter shows the presence of an "exogenous" component of cost. The implications of this finding are discussed in relationship with the usual distinction between an endogenous component of switch cost that is affected by preparation time and another exogenous, residual component (e.g., Rogers & Monsell, 1995). It is proposed that a different kind of task-set preparation is at work when tasks alternate at random.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2001


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