Asymmetrical switch costs in children

Michelle R. Ellefson*, Laura R. Shapiro, Nick Chater

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Switching between tasks produces decreases in performance as compared to repeating the same task. Asymmetrical switch costs occur when switching between two tasks of unequal difficulty. This asymmetry occurs because the cost is greater when switching to the less difficult task than when switching to the more difficult task. Various theories about the origins of these asymmetrical switch costs have emerged from numerous and detailed experiments with adults. There is no documented evidence of asymmetrical switch costs in children. We conducted a series of studies that examined age-related changes in asymmetrical switch costs, within the same paradigm. Similarities in the patterns of asymmetrical switch costs between children and adults suggested that theoretical explanations of the cognitive mechanisms driving asymmetrical switch costs in adults could be applied to children. Age-related differences indicate that these theoretical explanations need to incorporate the relative contributions and interactions of developmental processes and task mastery. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-130
Number of pages23
JournalCognitive Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006
Event45th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic-Society - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: 18 Nov 200421 Nov 2004

Bibliographical note

45th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic-Society, Minneapolis (US), 18-21 November 2004


  • arithmetic
  • children
  • switch costs
  • task switching


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