Task Switching

Flexible self control is a key feature in successful adaptation. The task switching paradigm has become the method of choice in understanding the mechanisms contributing to flexible vs. rigid self control (see review here). Together with Yoav Kessler and Esti Adi-Japha, we developed a modeling platform, called CARIS that explains how humans successfully control their performance when they switch tasks (download the article here). The core idea in CARIS is that task execution forms a tendency to repeat the same task. Cognitive control is needed to overcome this bias and is achieved by selecting information. One option is to select the input information. For example, if the input stimulus is a red circle and the task requires shape judgment, shape information is selected and color information is ignored. This idea is formulated in CARIS Model 1. Another option is to select the relevant meaning of the action. For example, if the left key serves to indicate both RED and CIRCLE and the task involves shape judgment then the meaning CIRCLE is selected while the meaning RED is ignored. This idea is formulated in CARIS Model 2. CARIS Model 3 assumes that control operates on both: the input and the action representation. Our modeling results suggest that Model 3 rarely describes behavior. Model 4 assumes that control does not operate at all and it predicts a completely perseverative behavior, as found among some patient populations (e.g., Yehene et al., 2008).


Meiran, N. (2010). Task switching: Mechanisms underlying rigid vs. flexible self control. In R. Hassin, K. Ochsner, & Y. Trope (Eds.) Self control in society, mind and brain (pp. 202-220). NY: Oxford University Press.

Meiran, N., Kessler, Y. & Adi-Japha, E. (2008). Control by Action Representation and Input Selection (CARIS): A theoretical framework for task switching. Psychological Research, 72, 473-500.

Yehene, E. & Meiran, N., & Soroker, N. (2008). Basal ganglia play a unique role in task switching within the frontal-sub-cortical circuits: Evidence from patients with focal lesions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 1079-1093.