Asymmetric Switch Costs as a Function of Task Strength

AbstractSeveral studies reported that it is harder to switch from a difficult task to an easy task than vice versa. Previous studies explain this paradoxical effect in terms of differences in task strength, by letting participants switch between different types of tasks. However, these studies failed to isolate the effects of task strength from task identity. Here, we present a series of experiments in which we systematically varied the strength of two tasks independent of their identity. We adapted a computational model of task switching by Yeung & Monsell (2003) to derive predictions about the magnitude of asymmetric switch costs (ASC) as a function of task strength, and compared predictions from the model to behavioral data. Our results reveal that ASC depend on the overall and relative task strength across the two tasks. ASC can therefore flip directions if the strength of two tasks is reversed, irrespective of their identities.

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