Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

At Will or Not at Will: Electrophysiological Correlates of Preparation for Voluntary and Instructed Task-Switching Paradigms

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

At Will or Not at Will: Electrophysiological Correlates of Preparation for Voluntary and Instructed Task-Switching Paradigms

Article excerpt

Published online: 19 December 2014

# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract The present study investigated whether the advanced reconfiguration processes of the voluntary switching (VTS) paradigm were different from those of the instructed task switching (ITS) paradigm by examining event-related potentials (ERPs) in a within-subjects design. Of importance, given that effector-to-task mapping might lead to differential preparatory strategies, two effector-to-task mapping groups were studied: the hand-to-task (HAND) and finger-to-task (FINGER) groups. Intriguingly, we found the increased posterior negativity for voluntary switch (and/or increased posterior positivity for voluntary repeat) was exclusive to the HAND group, whereas the increased switch-related late posterior positivity in the ITS paradigm was independent of the effector manipulation. Moreover, the lateralized readiness potentials (LRP) and the mu and beta motor-related amplitude asymmetries indicated that the differential switch-related modulations were not the byproduct of hand-specific preparation. The advanced preparatory strategies in the VTS and ITS paradigms are discussed.

Keywords Voluntary task switching . Strategy . Cognitive control . ERP . LRP


Mental flexibility is one of the essential issues in exploring cognitive control. In the previous two decades, the instructed task switching (ITS) paradigm has been proposed as a persuasive approach to explore mental flexibility (Allport, Styles, & Hsieh, 1994; Rogers & Monsell, 1995). ITS requires the participants to switch between cognitive tasks (e.g., parity and magnitude judgments) (for a revew, see Kiesel et al., 2010; Vandierendonck, Liefooghe, & Verbruggen, 2010). Although studying ITS has provided fruitful evidence for understanding endogenous control, the ITS paradigm appears to be ecologically invalid because real-life situations are not controlled by instructions for imposed tasks. Instead, individuals generate their own decisions to perform tasks sequentially. Recently, Arrington and Logan (2004, 2005) proposed a procedure, the voluntary task-switching (VTS) paradigm, in which participants have to select between tasks randomly and equally often at their own will. Given the demanding nature of voluntary selection, Arrington and Logan (2004, 2005) claimed VTS to be a valid tool for exploring endogenous control despite that recent literature has revealed that voluntary task selection was not immune to the stimulusdriven effect (Arrington, 2008; Mayr & Bell, 2006). To summarize, it has been acknowledged that endogenous control is involved in both VTS and ITS paradigms (Arrington & Logan, 2005; Rogers & Monsell, 1995). Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether the underlying preparatory mechanisms of VTS are identical to those of ITS. If there were discrepant preparation processes, we would address which factors might lead to this discrepancy. In the present study, we addressed these issues by incorporating recordings of event-related potentials (ERPs).

As stated in previous ERP literature on ITS (for a review, see Karayanidis et al., 2010), there is an increased late posterior positivity for anticipating a switching task. Some authors have directly related this positive deflection to the P3b component as the construct of "context updating" (Donchin & Coles, 1988), which suggests that the increased positivity is assumed to reflect the endogenous control for comparison of the attributes of incoming stimuli with an internal model and the subsequent revision of the model (Barcelo, MunozCespedes, Pozo, & Rubia, 2000; Barcelo, Perianez, & Knight, 2002; Kieffaber & Hetrick, 2005). Accordingly, the late posterior positivity for switch trials has been interpreted as the advanced endogenous control processes that either update the task sets (Barcelo et al., 2002; Kieffaber & Hetrick, 2005)and/ or the stimulus-response (S-R) mapping rules (Astle, Jackson, &Swainson, 2008) in working memory or retrieve the task goals from long-term memory (Jost, Mayr, & Rosler, 2008). …

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