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posted on 2022-04-18, 13:52 authored by Corey Allan NackCorey Allan Nack

The brain dynamically alters its production of flexible behavior: cognitive flexibility increases when demand is high. In task switching experiments, past exposure to a high demand for flexibility in conjunction with specific temporal contexts leads to learned switch readiness such that future exposures to those contexts will cue flexibility. According to a recent proposal (Dreisbach & Fröber, 2019), learned switch readiness following switch demands is supported by a concurrent activation (CA) cognitive mechanism whereby both sets of task rules are kept available in working memory despite only using one at a time. This can be differentiated from a competing candidate mechanism, working memory updating (WMU) thresholds which determine the ease of replacing one task’s rules with another. The WMU mechanism is expected to cause a global increase in flexibility while CA is conceptualized as limited to task-specific associations. To test whether learned switch readiness represents a global or limited change in the cognitive system, I conducted two experiments that both involved learning switch readiness in one context and generalizing it in another. In Experiment 1, I replicated and extended findings that switch probability manipulations can modulate voluntary switch rates (VSR), indicating one type of generalizability. However, in Experiment 2, I found that flexibility learned through switch probability manipulations did not transfer to new tasks when the task rules were changed but contextual cues remained the same, demonstrating a limit: learned switch readiness does not generalize across tasks. These findings together suggest that CA is likely the mechanism behind learned switch readiness.


Degree Type

Master of Science


Psychological Sciences

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Yu-Chin Chiu

Additional Committee Member 2

Sebastien Hélie

Additional Committee Member 3

Darryl W. Schneider