Attentional inertia and delayed orienting of spatial attention in task-switching

C.S. Longman, A. Lavric, C. Munteanu, S. Monsell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Citations (Scopus)


    Among the potential, but neglected, sources of task-switch costs is the need to reallocate attention to different attributes or objects. Even theorists who recognize the importance of attentional resetting in task-switching sometimes think it too efficient to result in significant behavioral costs. We examined the dynamics of spatial attention in a task-cuing paradigm using eye-tracking. Digits appeared simultaneously at 3 locations. A cue preceded this display by a variable interval, instructing the performance of 1 of 3 classification tasks (odd-even, low-high, inner-outer) each consistently associated with a location, so that task preparation could be tracked via fixation of the task-relevant location. Task-switching led to a delay in selecting the relevant location and a tendency to misallocate attention; the previously relevant location attracted attention much more than the other irrelevant location on switch trials, indicating "inertia" in attentional parameters rather than mere distractibility. These effects predicted reaction time switch costs within and over participants. The switch-induced delay was not confined to trials with slow/late orienting, but characteristic of most switch trials. The attentional pull of the previously relevant location was substantially reduced, but not eliminated, by extending the preparation interval to more than 1 sec, suggesting that attentional inertia contributes to the "residual" switch cost. A control condition, using identical displays but only 1 task, showed that these effects could not be attributed to the (small and transient) delays or inertia observed when the required orientation changed between trials in the absence of a task change.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1580-1602
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014


    Dive into the research topics of 'Attentional inertia and delayed orienting of spatial attention in task-switching'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this