What is task-switching? It's a situation where the stimuli you look at or listen to are similar, but the directions on how to respond to them shift back and forth. For example, please look at this stimulus: RED. If the direction is, “please read the word,” the correct response is “red,” whereas if the direction is, “please say what color the word is,” the correct answer is “green.” If the directions switch back and forth, your brain has to do two things at once: answer the question, and keep track of what question you're trying to answer; research shows that the prefrontal cortex of the brain gets a workout by doing things like this. The prefrontal cortex is also the region that plays a big role in “executive functions” like planning, decision-making, resisting impulses, and so forth.
So, by practicing a bunch of task-switching, and we build up our abilities to plan, decide, and resist impulses? Maybe, or maybe not. Research hasn't quite gotten around to answering this question. Just in case the answer is no, our exercises (presented in other books) include lots of other ways to practice executive functions. And just in case the answer is no, the exercises in our book incorporate lots of practice in math facts and reading drills, so that even after doing them your executive functioning stays the same, you will be very likely to be better in math or reading. But if practicing task-switching turns out to be very good for our prefrontal cortexes, the exercises in this book should give lots of powerful workouts in task-switching.
Excerpts and Related Materials
Click to open each in a new window.