Developmental changes in using verbal self-cueing in task-switching situations: the impact of task practice and task-sequencing demands


  • Kray Jutta
  • Gaspard Hanna
  • Karbach Julia
  • Blaye Agnès


  • Task switching
  • Verbal self-cueing
  • Working memory
  • Practice
  • Childhood

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In this study we examined whether developmental changes in using verbal self-cueing for task-goal maintenance are dependent on the amount of task practice and task-sequencing demands. To measure task-goal maintenance we applied a switching paradigm in which children either performed only task A or B in single-task blocks or switched between them on every second trial in mixed-task blocks. Task-goal maintenance was determined by comparing the performance between both blocks (mixing costs). The influence of verbal self-cueing was measured by instructing children to either name the next task aloud or not to verbalize during task preparation. Task-sequencing demands were varied between groups whereas one group received spatial task cues to support keeping track of the task sequence, while the other group did not. We also varied by the amount of prior practice in task switching while one group of participants practiced task switching first, before performing the task naming in addition, and the other group did it vice versa. Results of our study investigating younger (8-10 years) and older children (11-13 years) revealed no age differences in beneficial effects of verbal self-cueing. In line with previous findings, children showed reduced mixing costs under task-naming instructions and under conditions of low task-sequence demands (with the presence of spatial task cues). Our results also indicated that these benefits were only obtained for those groups of children that first received practice in task switching alone with no additional verbalization instruction. These findings suggest that internal task-cueing strategies can be efficiently used in children but only if they received prior practice in the underlying task so that demands on keeping and coordinating various instructions are reduced. Moreover, children benefitted from spatial task cues for better task-goal maintenance only if no verbal task-cueing strategy was introduced first.

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