Chunking in task sequences modulates task inhibition

  • Koch I
  • Philipp A
  • Gade M
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In a study of the formation of representations of task sequences and its influence on task inhibition, participants first performed tasks in a predictable sequence (e.g., ABACBC) and then performed the tasks in a random sequence. Half of the participants were explicitly instructed about the predictable sequence, whereas the other participants did not receive these instructions. Task-sequence learning was inferred from shorter reaction times (RTs) in predictable relative to random sequences. Persisting inhibition of competing tasks was indicated by increased RTs in n- 2 task repetitions (e.g., ABA) compared with n- 2 nonrepetitions (e.g., CBA). The results show task-sequence learning for both groups. However, task inhibition was reduced in predictable relative to random sequences among instructed-learning participants who formed an explicit representation of the task sequence, whereas sequence learning and task inhibition were independent in the noninstructed group. We hypothesize that the explicit instructions led to chunking of the task sequence, and that n- 2 repetitions served as chunk points (ABA-CBC), so that within-chunk facilitation modulated the inhibition effect.

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