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16-09-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2016

Psychological Research 6/2016

Modality-specific effects on crosstalk in task switching: evidence from modality compatibility using bimodal stimulation

Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2016
Denise Nadine Stephan, Iring Koch


The present study was aimed at examining modality-specific influences in task switching. To this end, participants switched either between modality compatible tasks (auditory–vocal and visual–manual) or incompatible spatial discrimination tasks (auditory–manual and visual–vocal). In addition, auditory and visual stimuli were presented simultaneously (i.e., bimodally) in each trial, so that selective attention was required to process the task-relevant stimulus. The inclusion of bimodal stimuli enabled us to assess congruence effects as a converging measure of increased between-task interference. The tasks followed a pre-instructed sequence of double alternations (AABB), so that no explicit task cues were required. The results show that switching between two modality incompatible tasks increases both switch costs and congruence effects compared to switching between two modality compatible tasks. The finding of increased congruence effects in modality incompatible tasks supports our explanation in terms of ideomotor “backward” linkages between anticipated response effects and the stimuli that called for this response in the first place. According to this generalized ideomotor idea, the modality match between response effects and stimuli would prime selection of a response in the compatible modality. This priming would cause increased difficulties to ignore the competing stimulus and hence increases the congruence effect. Moreover, performance would be hindered when switching between modality incompatible tasks and facilitated when switching between modality compatible tasks.

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