The Instructed Task-Switch Evaluation Effect: Is the Instruction to Switch Tasks Sufficient to Dislike Task Switch Cues?

Pieter Van Dessel, Baptist Liefooghe, Jan De Houwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is often argued that people dislike situations in which there is conflict requiring cognitive control, possibly because it is effortful to resolve this conflict. In a recent study, Vermeylen, Braem, and Notebaert (2019) provided evidence for this idea in the context of task switching. They observed that participants evaluated cues signaling a task switch more negatively than cues signaling a task repetition in a task switching paradigm. The present study examined whether this evaluative bias can be observed also on the basis of mere instructions. We instructed participants that two non-words would either signal the requirement to switch or to repeat tasks in an upcoming task switching block, which was actually never administered. In Experiment 1, we did not observe more positive implicit or explicit evaluations of the instructed task repetition compared to the task switch cue. In Experiment 2, participants first completed a task switching block in which a first pair of transition cues were used. We then provided task switching instructions that described the signaling function of a second pair of cues, which would be used in an upcoming (but never administered) second task switching block. Participants showed a clear preference for both instructed and experienced task repetition cues on explicit but not on implicit evaluations. Experiment 3 replicated the instructed task-switch evaluation effect on explicit evaluations in the context of prior task experience (but not without prior experience) and extended it to implicit evaluations. We discuss theoretical implications and potential explanations of this task-switch evaluation effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2020


  • Social cognition
  • Action
  • Cognitive Control


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