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Measuring cognitive effort without difficulty

Existing measures of cognitive effort do not separate out effort from difficulty and so result in confounding. This problem in particular undermines our ability to conduct individual differences research, because results could equally well be explained by differences in effort sensitivity or cognitive capacity. This task was specially designed to solve these problems: it allows the manipulation of effort while holding the difficulty of the task (measured by the probability of successfully winning rewards) the same, and also permits the difficulty to be standardised across participants.

This task was designed by Hugo Fleming, Oliver J. Robinson and Jonathan Roiser, and the code written by Hugo Fleming.

We are more than happy for you to use this task for your research. We require only that you give appropriate credit (this task is described in a preprint ) and do not use it commercially. Other than that you are free to reuse, share and adapt the task as you like provided you ensure any changes to the original are made clear.

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Number Switching Task

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A new task specially designed to measure cognitive effort sensitivity without the confounding effects of difficulty or cognitive capacity. This facilitates individual differences research.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)


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Conducted at Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience,
University College London
Published on 02 December 2021
Corresponding author Hugo Fleming PhD Student