Different faces of (un)controllability: Control restoration modulates the efficiency of task switching

Marcin Bukowski, Soledad de Lemus, Anna Marzecová, Juan Lupiáñez, Malgorzata Goclowska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


Uncontrollability has been often associated with impaired or rigid cognitive processing. However, perceived stability of uncontrollable events modulated some of these detrimental effects on cognition. We investigated whether the experience of sequential control loss and restoration can enhance cognitive flexibility. We manipulated uncontrollability using a concept formation procedure that entailed either only unsolvable tasks (control deprivation condition), unsolvable tasks followed by solvable ones (control restoration condition) or only solvable tasks (control condition). To assess cognitive flexibility, we used a task-switching procedure that incorporated social categories. In Experiment 1 participants categorized people based on gender or age, and in Experiment 2 and 3 based on gender or social roles. Participants showed more flexibility in control restoration than in control deprivation condition. Additionally, in Experiments 2 and 3 this effect was mainly pronounced in the condition where the task evoked more cognitive conflict. We discuss the motivational underpinnings of unstable experiences of control loss and restoration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-34
Number of pages23
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number1
Early online date26 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This research was supported by grants financed by the Polish National Science Centre (DEC-2011/01/D/HS6/00477 and DEC-2014/15/B/HS6/03755) and by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (PSI2016-79971-P). The authors would like to thank Mirosław Kofta for his helpful comments on the research presented in this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).


  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Control deprivation
  • Social categories
  • Task switching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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