The role of working memory capacity and interference resolution mechanisms in task switching

Corinne Pettigrew, Randi C. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Theories of task switching have emphasized a number of control mechanisms that may support the ability to flexibly switch between tasks. The present study examined the extent to which individual differences in working memory (WM) capacity and two measures of interference resolution, response–distractor inhibition and resistance to proactive interference (PI), account for variability in task switching, including global costs, local costs, and N-2 repetition costs. A total of 102 young and 60 older adults were tested on a battery of tasks. Composite scores were created for WM capacity, response–distractor inhibition, and resistance to PI; shifting was indexed by rate residual scores, which combine response time and accuracy and account for individual differences in processing speed. Composite scores served as predictors of task switching. WM was significantly related to global switch costs. While resistance to PI and WM explained some variance in local costs, these effects did not reach significance. In contrast, none of the control measures explained variance in N-2 repetition costs. Furthermore, age effects were only evident for N-2 repetition costs, with older adults demonstrating larger costs than young adults. Results are discussed within the context of theoretical models of task switching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2431-2451
Number of pages21
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Inhibition
  • Interference resolution
  • Shifting
  • Task switching
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Physiology (medical)


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