Mental Task Set


In highly practiced routines, such as preparing breakfast, we typically switch among several subtasks and actions, for example preparing tea and setting the table, apparently without much mental effort. However, in unpractised and unstructured and unpredictable task sequences, each task switch incurs considerable performance costs, so-called switch costs. We investigate the cognitive mechanisms underlying the ability to switch mental task set on a variety of levels.

  • Mental task preparation
  • Involuntary priming of task sets
  • Inhibition of task sets
  • Intentional control of auditory attention
  • Intentional control of crossmodal attention
  • Selection of action modalities and effectors
  • Language selection in multilingual contexts
  • Neural basis of mental task set

The aim of these investigations is to clarify the cognitive and neural mechanisms that enable us to master complex tasks in a flexible and context-sensitive manner. In addition to basic research, we also pursue the aim to explore both practical implications, for example mental demands of simultaneous language translation, and methodological aspects, for example the comparability of findings in behavioural and brain imaging studies.

Selected references

Gade, M., Schuch, S., Druey, M., & Koch, I. (2014). Inhibitory control in task switching. In J. Grange & G. Houghton (Eds.), Task switching and cognitive control (pp. 137-159). Oxford University Press. (Review)

Koch, I., & Schuch, S. (2013). Mentales Set. In M.A. Wirtz (Hrsg.), Dorsch - Lexikon der Psychologie (S. 1017), 16. Auflage. Bern: Verlag Hans Huber. (Review)

Jost, K., De Baene, W., Koch, I. , & Brass, M. (2013). A review of the role of cue processing in task switching. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 221, 5-14. (Review)

Kiesel, A., Steinhauser, M., Wendt, M., Falkenstein, M., Jost, K., Philipp, A. M., & Koch, I. (2010). Control and interference in task switching - A review. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 849-874. (Review)

Koch, I., Gade, M., Schuch, S., & Philipp, A. M. (2010). The role of inhibition in task switching: A review. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 1-14. (Review)

Kreutzfeldt, M. Stephan, D. N., Sturm, W., Willmes, K., & Koch, I. (2015). The role of crossmodal competition and dimensional overlap in crossmodal attention switching. Acta Psychologica, 155, 67-76.

Koch, I., & Lawo, V. (2014). Exploring temporal dissipation of attention settings in auditory task switching. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 76, 73-80.

Declerck, M., Philipp, A. M., & Koch, I. (2013). Bilingual control: Sequential memory in language switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 39, 1793-1806.

Schuch, S. & Koch, I. (2003). The role of response selection for inhibition of task sets in task shifting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 92-105.

Koch, I. (2001). Automatic and intentional activation of task sets. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 27, 1474-1486.