Professor Tobias Egner (Duke University)


More Information

Elise Kalokerinos

Professor Tobias Egner joins us from Duke University for the first in our 2023 MSPS Colloquium Series with his lecture, Principles of cognitive control over task focus and task switching.

Adaptive behavior requires the ability to focus on a current task and protect it from distraction (cognitive stability), and to rapidly switch tasks when circumstances change (cognitive flexibility). How people control task focus and switch-readiness has therefore been the target of burgeoning research literatures.

Here, Professor Egner reviews and integrates these literatures to derive a cognitive architecture and functional rules underlying the regulation of stability and flexibility. He proposes that task focus and switch-readiness are supported by independent mechanisms whose strategic regulation is nevertheless governed by shared principles: both stability and flexibility are matched to anticipated challenges via an incremental, online learner that nudges control up or down based on the recent history of task demands (a recency heuristic), as well as via episodic reinstatement when the current context matches a past experience (a recognition heuristic).

About the speaker

Tobias Egner received his BSc in Psychology (1999) and PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience (2002) from the University of London, before conducting postdoctoral research at Columbia University and Northwestern University. He joined Duke University in 2009, where he is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. Dr Egner uses psychophysics, neuroimaging, neurostimulation, and modeling approaches to enhance our understanding of the cognitive and neural mechanisms of cognitive control, the use of internal goals to guide perception and action. He has published over 130 journal articles (Google Scholar h-index = 63, > 21,000 citations), and his research has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Event information

Lunch will be available outside the Lowe Theatre following the lecture.

Announcements on upcoming Colloquiums and Zoom links to online Colloquiums are sent out via the MSPS School Colloquium mailing list. To be added to this list, please email Dr Elise Kalokerinos (