Enhancing task-demands disrupts learning but enhances transfer gains in short-term task-switching training

Katrina Sabah, Thomas Dolk, Nachshon Meiran, Gesine Dreisbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Content variability was previously suggested to promote stronger learning effects in cognitive training whereas less variability incurred transfer costs (Sabah et al. Psychological Research, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-018-1006-7, 2018). Here, we expanded these findings by additionally examining the role of learners’ control in short-term task-switching training by comparing voluntary task-switching to a yoked control forced task-switching condition. To this end, four training conditions were compared: (1) forced fixed content, (2) voluntary fixed content, (3) forced varied content, and (3) voluntary varied content. To further enhance task demands, bivalent stimuli were used during training. Participants completed baseline assessment commencing with task-switching and verbal fluency blocks, followed by seven training blocks and last by task-switching (near transfer) and verbal fluency (far transfer) blocks, respectively. For the baseline and transfer task-switching blocks, we used the exact same baseline and first transfer block from Sabah et al. (Psychological Research, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-018-1006-7, 2018), employing univalent stimuli and alternating-runs task sequence. Our results pointed again to the contribution of content variability to task-switching performance. No indications for far transfer were observed. Allowing for learners’ control was not found to produce additional transfer gains beyond content variability. A between-study comparison suggests that enhanced task demands, by means of bivalency, promoted higher transfer gains in the current study when compared to Sabah et al. (Psychological Research, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-018-1006-7, 2018). Taken together, the current results provide further evidence to the beneficial impact of variability on training outcomes. The lack of modulatory effect for learners’ control is discussed in relation to possible methodological limitations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1473-1487
Number of pages15
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Enhancing task-demands disrupts learning but enhances transfer gains in short-term task-switching training'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this