A change of task prolongs early processes: evidence from ERPs in lexical tasks.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
American Psychological Association
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from American Psychological Association via the DOI in this record.
Switching tasks costs time. Allowing time to prepare reduces the cost, but usually leaves an irreducible "residual cost." Most accounts of this residual cost locate it within the response-selection stage of processing. To determine which processing stage is affected, we measured event-related potentials (ERPs) as participants performed a reading task or a perceptual judgment task, and examined the effect of a task switch on early markers of lexical processing. A task cue preceding a string of blue and red letters instructed the participant either to read the letter string (for a semantic classification in Experiment 1, and a lexical decision in Experiment 2) or to judge the symmetry of its color pattern. In Experiment 1, having to switch to the reading task delayed the evolution of the effect of word frequency on the reading task ERP by a substantial fraction of the effect on reaction time (RT). In Experiment 2, a task switch delayed the onset of the effect of lexical status on the ERP by about the same extent that it prolonged the RT. These effects indicate an early locus of (most of) the residual switch cost: We propose that this reflects a form of task-related attentional inertia. Other findings have implications for the automaticity of lexical access: Effects of frequency, lexicality, and orthographic familiarity on ERPs in the symmetry task indicated involuntary, but attenuated, orthographic and lexical processing even when attention was focused on a nonlexical property.
Economic and Social Research Council
Vol. 144, Iss. 2, pp. 299 - 325
Place of publication