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Measuring the Mind: Speed, control, and age$
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John Duncan, Louise Phillips, and Peter McLeod

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198566427

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198566427.001.0001

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The chronometrics of task-set control

The chronometrics of task-set control

(p.161) Chapter 7 The chronometrics of task-set control
Measuring the Mind: Speed, control, and age

Stephen Monsell

Oxford University Press

This chapter reviews recent research from reaction-time experiments on the control of task-set, especially experiments in which frequent changes of task are required. The focus is on the reaction-time cost of a task switch, and the reduction in cost usually observed when the subject has time to prepare for a stimulus and foreknowledge of the task to be performed. The latter phenomenon has been interpreted as an index of a control process, task-set reconfiguration (TSR), being carried out in preparation for the change of task. The discussion addresses the nature of TSR, arguing that a simple associative conception of performance in task-switching experiments is inadequate, although associative binding between stimuli, responses, cues, contexts, and goals undoubtedly contributes to performance. There is also evidence that the fundamental task-set control network humans share with infra-human species is supplemented in humans by processes of linguistic self-instruction.

Keywords:   reaction-time experiments, task switch, task-set reconfiguration, linguistic self-instruction

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