Inhibition in task switching: The reliability of the n−2 repetition cost


The n–2 repetition cost seen in task switching is the effect of slower response times performing a recently completed task (e.g. an ABA sequence) compared to performing a task that was not recently completed (e.g. a CBA sequence). This cost is thought to reflect cognitive inhibition of task representations and as such, the n–2 repetition cost has begun to be used as an assessment of individual differences in inhibitory control; however, the reliability of this measure has not been investigated in a systematic manner. The current study addressed this important issue. Seventy-two participants performed three task switching paradigms; participants were also assessed on rumination traits and processing speed—measures of individual differences potentially modulating the n–2 repetition cost. We found significant n−2 repetition costs for each paradigm. However, split-half reliability tests revealed that this cost was not reliable at the individual-difference level. Neither rumination tendencies nor processing speed predicted this cost. We conclude that the n–2 repetition cost is not reliable as a measure of individual differences in inhibitory control.

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 2419–2433