Examining the Trainability and Transferability of Working-Memory Gating Policies

Katrina Sabah, Nachshon Meiran, Gesine Dreisbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Internal working memory (WM) gating control policies have been suggested to constitute a critical component of task-sets that can be learned and transferred to very similar task contexts (Bhandari and Badre ( Cognition, 172 , 33–43, 2018). Here, we attempt to expand these findings, examining whether such control policies can be also trained and transferred to other untrained cognitive control tasks, namely to task switching and AX-CPT. To this end, a context-processing WM task was used for training, allowing to manipulate either input (i.e., top-down selective entry of information into WM) or output (i.e., bottom-up selective retrieval of WM) gating control policies by employing either a context-first (CF) or context-last (CL) task structure, respectively. In this task, two contextual cues were each associated with two different stimuli. In CF condition, each trial began with a contextual cue, determining which of the two subsequent stimuli is target relevant. In contrast, in the CL condition the contextual cue appeared last, preceded by a target and non-target stimulus successively. Participants completed a task switching baseline assessment, followed by one practice and six training blocks with the WM context-processing training task. After completing training, task-switching and AX-CPT transfer blocks were administrated, respectively. As hypothesized, compared to CL training condition, CF training led to improved task-switching performance. However, contrary to our predictions, training type did not influence AX-CPT performance. Taken together, the current results provide further evidence that internal control policies are (1) inherent element of task-sets, also in task switching and (2) independent of S-R mappings. However, these results need to be cautiously interpreted due to baseline differences in task-switching performance between the conditions (overall slower RTs in the CF condition). Importantly though, our results open a new venue for the realm of cognitive enhancement, pointing here for the first time to the potential of control policies training in promoting wider transfer effects.
Original languageEnglish GB
JournalJournal of Cognitive Enhancement
StatePublished - 27 Jan 2021


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