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01-03-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2015

Psychological Research 2/2015

Encoding and choice in the task span paradigm

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2015
Auteurs:
Kaitlin M. Reiman, Starla M. Weaver, Catherine M. Arrington
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s00426-014-0556-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Abstract

Cognitive control during sequences of planned behaviors requires both plan-level processes such as generating, maintaining, and monitoring the plan, as well as task-level processes such as selecting, establishing and implementing specific task sets. The task span paradigm (Logan in J Exp Psychol Gen 133:218–236, 2004) combines two common cognitive control paradigms, task switching and working memory span, to investigate the integration of plan-level and task-level processes during control of sequential behavior. The current study expands past task span research to include measures of encoding processes and choice behavior with volitional sequence generation, using the standard task span as well as a novel voluntary task span paradigm. In two experiments, we consider how sequence complexity, defined separately for plan-level and task-level complexity, influences sequence encoding (Experiment 1), sequence choice (Experiment 2), sequence memory, and task performance of planned sequences of action. Results indicate that participants were sensitive to sequence complexity, but that different aspects of behavior are most strongly influenced by different types of complexity. Hierarchical complexity at the plan level best predicts voluntary sequence generation and memory; while switch frequency at the task level best predicts encoding of externally defined sequences and task performance. Furthermore, performance RTs were similar for externally and internally defined plans, whereas memory was improved for internally defined sequences. Finally, participants demonstrated a significant sequence choice bias in the voluntary task span. Consistent with past research on choice behavior, volitional selection of plans was markedly influenced by both the ease of memory and performance.

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