Research Overview

My research interests are centred on three main topics: cognitive control during task switching; application & development of cognitive models; and issues surrounding replication in psychological science.


1) Cognitive Control During Task Switching

Humans live in an increasingly busy, multi-task environment which often requires frequent switching between different cognitive operations and tasks. Driving, for example, presents us with an incredibly complex environment wherein many sub-tasks—e.g. speed monitoring, interpretation of abstract road signs, planning the best route etc.—must be organised and deployed appropriately in order to arrive at our destination safely. Yet, despite the complexity, humans are able to act efficiently in a goal-directed manner. The question thus arises as to how humans are able to organise and control the selection and deployment of on-going cognitive processes to ensure successful performance in multi-task environments.
My research focusses on how this control is achieved. Since my PhD I have been very interested in one mechanism thought to aid cognitive control during task switching: inhibition of competing tasks. When switching from one task to another, the persisting activation of the now-irrelevant task can interfere with the selection of the new task. There is now good evidence that the cognitive system overcomes this problem by inhibiting (suppressing) the activation of recently performed tasks, enabling efficient selection of the new task.

My research is interested in the nature of this inhibitory process, and focusses on several as-yet unresolved questions: What aspects of a task become inhibited? How does the system know what/when to inhibit? What drives individual differences in task inhibition?

Representative publications:

  • Grange, J.A., & Juvina, I. (2015). The effect of practice on n–2 repetition costs in set switching. Acta Psychologica, 154, 14–25. [PDF]
  • Grange, J.A., & Cross, E. (2015). Can time-based decay explain temporal distinctiveness effects in task switching? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68, 19–45. [PDF]
  • Grange, J.A. & Houghton, G. (Eds.) (2014). Task Switching and Cognitive Control. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. [Online Link]
  • Grange, J.A., Juvina, I., & Houghton, G. (2013). On costs and benefits of n–2 repetitions in task switching: Towards a behavioural marker of cognitive inhibition. Psychological Research, 77, 211-222. [PDF]
  • Grange, J.A., & Houghton, G. (2010). Heightened conflict in cue–target translation increases backward inhibition in set switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 36, 1003-1009. [PDF]

2) Application & Development of Cognitive Models

The ultimate goal in the field of cognitive science/psychology is to understand the workings of the human/animal mind. How do we selectively attend to goal-relevant stimuli? How do we remember such vast amounts of information? How do we plan and co-ordinate complex plans of action? Researchers address these problems by describing behaviour, through observation and experimentation. At a higher level, researchers aim to predict behaviour: Only a solid understanding of a phenomenon allows successful prediction of future behaviour in differing contexts. Prediction is a key tool for assessing whether our understanding of a phenomenon is sufficient.

Understanding cognitive phenomena is challenging as the human mind is impossibly complex; thus, researchers develop models of cognition, which abstract away from unnecessary details whilst emphasising details thought to underlie the phenomena under investigation. Examination of the model’s behaviour provides a window onto the more complex system that it is representing, increasing our understanding of that system.

Inspired by several outstanding theorists in my field, I am interested in applying models of cognition to experimental data to understand human behaviour in more detail. In particular, recent work in my lab has focussed on developing and testing models of inhibition during task switching. I am also interested in extending extant models of task switching, as well as integrating task switching models with models that address other cognitive processes (such as memory models; see for example Grange & Cross, 2015).

Representative publications:

  • Grange, J.A. (in press). flankr: An R package implementing computational models of attentional selectivity. Behavior Research Methods. [PDF]
  • Grange, J.A., & Juvina, I. (2015). The effect of practice on n–2 repetition costs in set switching. Acta Psychologica, 154, 14–25. [PDF]
  • Grange, J.A., & Cross, E. (2015). Can time-based decay explain temporal distinctiveness effects in task switching? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68, 19–45. [PDF]
  • Grange, J.A., Juvina, I., & Houghton, G. (2013). On costs and benefits of n–2 repetitions in task switching: Towards a behavioural marker of cognitive inhibition. Psychological Research, 77, 211-222. [PDF]

3) Replication in Psychological Science

Replication is the most important statistic. If an experimental effect does not replicate—either in your own lab or independently—then trust in that effect should rightly diminish. Thus, assessing the reproducibility of an effect should rightly be among the priorities of psychological scientists. Despite the importance, replication attempts in psychology are rare, likely due to the enhanced incentive (e.g. publications, grant income) to introduce new ideas to the field rather than assess the validity of old ones.

I am an active member of the Reproducibility Project, an open, large-scale, world-wide collaborative effort to systematically examine the rate and predictors of reproducibility in psychological science. The collaboration have organised to openly and transparently replicate all studies published in three prominent psychology journals in 2008, with the aim of calculating an empirical rate of replication, as well as investigating factors that predict reproducibility.

As well as this collaborative Reproducibility Project, I also—together with my students—conduct replication attempts of published studies in the field of cognitive control during task switching. Going forward, these replications will make use of the “Replication Recipe”, which was developed in collaboration with others from the Open Science Collaboration (Brandt et al., 2014).

Representative publications:

  • Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349, 943. [PDF]
  • Brandt, M.J., IJzerman, H., Dijksterhuis, A., Farach, F., Geller, J., Giner-Sorolla, R., Grange, J.A., Perugini, M., Spies, J., & van ‘t Veer, A. (2014). The replication recipe: What makes for a convincing replication? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 50, 217-224. [PDF]
  • Open Science Collaboration. (2013). The Reproducibility Project: A model of large-scale collaboration for empirical research on reproducibility. In V. Stodden, F. Leisch, & R. Peng (Eds.), Implementing Reproducible Computational Research (A Volume in the R Series), New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. [PDF]
  • Open Science Collaboration. (2012). An open, large-scale, collaborative effort to estimate the reproducibility of psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 657-670. [PDF]

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