Influence of Social Intention on Switch Cost in Task-Switching Paradigms

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Barrett, Jacquelyn Marie
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Humans have built a society based upon elaborate social interactions. We have processes that enable us to interact with each other and switch between tasks. Humans often multitask especially in a social context, such as talking while working on a project, listening to someone while driving, or switching between conversations with different people. One of these processes that aids in this interaction is the intentional stance. The intentional stance is the tendency humans have to view other’s actions as driven by their own mental states, beliefs, and intentions. In this experiment, it is examined whether or not social cognition, such as inferring the beliefs or intentions of others, behaves like other cognitively dominant tasks. Cognitively dominant tasks are automatic processes that are elicited with minimal to no effort, such as reading. A task switching paradigm was used among two groups, social and non-social, where tasks in the social group invoke the intentional stance and tasks in the non-social group do not. Switch cost, the increase in reaction time when switching between tasks, may increase when switching from a hard task to an easier task. This is due to the amount of inhibition initially placed on the easier stimuli in order to attend to the cued, more difficult stimulus until the more readily available stimulus has become relevant again Based on previous research, it is believed that switching from a non-social to a social task will result in a greater switch cost due to the amount of effort needed to overcome inhibition initially placed on the more readily available stimuli, or the social stimuli. These findings would support the hypothesis that social cognitive process behave similarly to other cognitively dominant processes.
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