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Is Self-Related Cognition Resistant to Time-Based Expectancy?

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journal contribution
posted on 28.06.2022, 07:17 authored by Marina Kunchulia, Roland Thomaschke


Individuals adapt to their environments by scheduling cognitive processing capacities selectively to the points in time where they are most likely required. This effect is known as time-based expectancy (TBE) [HT1] and has been demonstrated for several cognitive capacities, like perceptual attention, task set activation, or response preparation. However, it has been argued that self-related cognition (i.e., processing of information linked to oneself) is universally prioritized, compared to non-self-related information in the cognitive system. Consequently, self-related cognition should be resistant to temporal scheduling by TBE, because individuals maintain a constantly high expectancy for self-related cognition, irrespective of its temporal likeliness. We tested this hypothesis in a task-switching paradigm where participants randomly switched between a self-related task and a neutral task. The tasks were preceded by a short or a long warning interval in each trial, and the interval duration predicted probabilistically the task type. We found that participants showed TBE for the neutral task but not for the self-related task. We conclude that the individual cannot benefit from time-based task expectancy when the to-be-expected task is constantly activated, due to its self-related nature.