The Effect of Hierarchical Task Representations on Task Selection in Voluntary Task Switching

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Abstract

The current study explored the potential for hierarchical representations to influence action selection during voluntary task switching. Participants switched between 4 individual task elements. In Experiment 1, participants were encouraged to represent the task elements as grouped within a hierarchy based on experimental manipulations of varying complexity. Manipulations implemented only during the practice phase of the experiment failed to influence action selection; however, manipulations that persisted throughout the experiment influenced action selection in a manner suggestive of a hierarchical task representation. Experiment 2 demonstrated that, once established, the influences of hierarchical representations appear to persist, regardless of whether they are required. The results suggest that hierarchical representations may play a functional role of goal shielding in action selection.

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