The Effect of Episodic Retrieval on Inhibition in Task Switching

30 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2015 Last revised: 5 Feb 2017

Date Written: February 3, 2017

Abstract

Inhibition in task switching is inferred from n-2 repetition costs: the observation that ABA task switching sequences are responded to slower than CBA sequences. This is thought to reflect the persisting inhibition of task A, which slows re-activation attempts. Mayr (2002) reported an experiment testing a critical non-inhibitory account of this effect, namely episodic retrieval: If the trial parameters for task A match across an ABA sequence, responses should be facilitated due to priming from episodic retrieval; a cost would occur if trial parameters mismatch. In a rule-switching paradigm, Mayr reported no significant difference in n-2 repetition cost when the trial parameters repeated or switched across an ABA sequence, in clear contrast to the episodic retrieval account. What remains unclear is whether successful episodic retrieval modulates the n-2 repetition cost. Across three experiments — including a close replication of Mayr (2002) — we find clear evidence of reduced n-2 task repetition costs when episodic retrieval is controlled. We find that the effect of episodic retrieval on the n-2 task repetition cost is increased when the cue–task relationship is made more abstract, suggesting the effect is due to interference in establishing the relevant attentional set. We also demonstrate that the episodic retrieval effect is not influenced by retrieval of low-level, perceptual, elements. Together, the data suggest the n-2 task repetition cost — typically attributable to an inhibitory mechanism — also reflects episodic retrieval effects.

Keywords: Task switching, inhibition, episodic retrieval, cognitive control

Suggested Citation

Grange, James and Kowalczyk, Agnieszka and O'Loughlin, Rory, The Effect of Episodic Retrieval on Inhibition in Task Switching (February 3, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2695998 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2695998

James Grange (Contact Author)

Keele University ( email )

Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
United Kingdom

Agnieszka Kowalczyk

Keele University ( email )

Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
United Kingdom

Rory O'Loughlin

Keele University ( email )

Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
United Kingdom

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