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Interaction of task readiness and automatic retrieval in task switching: Negative priming and competitor priming

When subjects switch between tasks, performance is slower after a task switch than after a task repetition, even when preparation time is long. We report two experiments that support the idea that a large part of these residual task shift costs can be due to stimulus-cued retrieval of previous task episodes. We demonstrate that there are two different factors at work: (1) facilitation of response to the current distractor stimulus, appropriate to the previously relevant, competing task (competitor priming), and (2) impaired processing of previously suppressed responses (negative priming). Negative priming was contingent on the size of the stimulus set, suggesting that distractor suppression comes into effect only if the distractors are highly activated. Importantly, both types of interference interacted with task readiness: Whereas in the nondominant task (picture naming), switch and nonswitch trials were equally affected, the dominant task (word reading) showed priming effects on switch trials only. Thus, the retrieval of previous processing episodes has a selective impact on situations in which task competition is high. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)



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