Switch and maintenance of task set in schizophrenia

Paul D. Kieffaber, Emily S. Kappenman, Misty Bodkins, Anantha Shekhar, Brian F. O'Donnell, William P. Hetrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


Task set maintenance and switching deficits are robust in schizophrenia. However, little is known about how these constructs are related to one another. The development of an improved understanding of set switching and maintenance deficits in schizophrenia requires that these constructs be explicated in terms of elementary cognitive processes rather than grouped into broad psychological concepts like executive functioning. A relevant dichotomy has been proposed in which sensory and perceptual ("attentional") processes are distinguished from decisional ("intentional") processes in task maintenance and switching; however, the contributions these processes make to performance deficits in schizophrenia is not known. In the present study, 30 participants with schizophrenia and 27 healthy comparisons completed a cued attentional set switching task. In addition to analyses of mean response times, the contributions of attentional and intentional processes to task performance were estimated using an ex-Gaussian distributional analysis. Schizophrenia was associated with a set maintenance deficit that was accounted for by an attentional, rather than intentional, dysfunction. Both groups showed significant switch costs that could be attributed to attentional processes, but there was no evidence for an attentional set switching deficit in schizophrenia. The findings suggest that set switching and set maintenance may reflect distinct cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and that they may be associated with unique information processing mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-358
Number of pages14
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006


  • Cognitive control
  • Context
  • Executive control
  • Schizophrenia
  • Set-switching
  • Task-set

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Psychology(all)

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