The effects of task switching on mental processing: The example of Lathe tasks and milling tasks

Chih Wei Lu, Chia Yun Huang, Ting To Yu, Chiang Sheng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to adaptively shift attention and action among many tasks allows a person to efficiently adapt to different situations. This cognitive flexibility, named task switching, has been investigated in the laboratory since the early 20th century. This disruption is characterized by a slower and error-prone performance on an alternating task that follows the performance of an original task, as opposed to performance on the same task. The interference in accuracy and response time are together known as the switching cost. What is unknown is whether or not this phenomenon occurs in motor skill tasks in practical fields and how it varies between two tasks of unequal difficulty. In this study, the effects of task switching between lathe tasks and milling tasks were evaluated in 18 adult male participants using the Jersild paradigm. Significant switching costs were observed between repetitionlathe tasks (267.06 s) and switching lathe tasks (274.39 s) [t17 = 2.28, p = 0.03], and also between repetition-milling tasks (339.36 s) and switching milling tasks (348.19 s) [t17 = 3.56, p < 0.01]. However, no significant differences in switching cost were observed between harder-to-easier (a shift from milling to lathe tasks) and easier-to-harder (a shift from lathe to milling tasks) tasks. Research on switching cost has many significant benefits for both scientific-theoretical and applied practical fields, especially in high-risk industries such as nuclear industries, military operations, and the aviation industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-106
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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