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17-07-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2020 Open Access

Psychological Research 2/2020

Training and transfer effects of extensive task-switching training in students

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2020
Xin Zhao, Haien Wang, Joseph H. R. Maes
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-018-1059-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


The capacity to switch between tasks is a central component of executive functioning. Previous studies assessing effects of task-switch training have revealed mixed results, both in terms of processes that may be improved and the extent of beneficial effects on non-trained tasks. These studies primarily used few training sessions, which may have limited training and transfer effects. Here, 31 students were trained for 21 days on a cued switching task. Both the trained group and an active control group (n = 29) performed a number of cognitive tasks before and after training. Training reduced both switch and mixing costs, which mostly reached an asymptote after approximately four to six training sessions, although there were residual costs at the end of training. The switch cost reduction was restricted to trials with a short cue–stimulus onset interval (CSI). Training benefitted performance on another switching task, reflecting near transfer. However, this benefit was limited to the switch cost and to trials with a short CSI. There were no beneficial effects on far-transfer tasks measuring interference control, response inhibition, working memory, and general IQ. The results suggest that the present extensive training protocol, implicating overtraining, specifically enhanced the efficiency of processes involved in preparing for the relevant upcoming task set and/or inhibition of the previous task set. However, the lack of beneficial far-transfer effects is in line with previous cognitive training studies employing fewer training sessions, suggesting that the extent of training is not critical for (not) finding transfer effects.

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