Skip to main content

Spillover Effects in Task-Segment Switching: A Study of Translation Subtasks as Behavioral Categories Within the Task Segment Framework

  • 454 Accesses

Part of the New Frontiers in Translation Studies book series (NFTS)


The Task Segment Framework (TSF) is a systematic approach to describing and analyzing whole translation processes as keylogged that portrays translating as a metacognitively controlled activity steered by the translator. The TSF suggests that adding new text, changing existing copy, and online searching qualify as subtasks with psychological reality in that they are behavioral bundles with their own set of rules and palette of behaviors. As experience is accumulated, translators will tend to devote full task-segments to such single subtasks to be more efficient and avoid unnecessary higher mental loads derived from maintaining more than one set and palette active. Using a wide variety of informants and texts, this research project sought to determine whether forward task-switching (spillover) effects would be proof of such psychological reality. Three indicators were used: (1) the length of the previous pause chunking the task flow into task segments; (2) the duration of the first five interkeystroke intervals (IKIs); and (3) the dwell time of the five first keypresses. The results of all three indicators attest to task-switching effects and hence suggest that the translation subtasks in the TSF have psychological reality. Additional results point to IKI and dwell time rebound values related to expertise and the smooth transition between chained typing motor programs.


  • Keylogging
  • Task Segment Framework
  • Translation subtasks
  • Psychological reality
  • Task-switching effects

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD   79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD   99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD   129.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Learn about institutional subscriptions


  1. 1.

    The naturalistic task of translating (and other activities under study within CTIS) may be further distinguished from its analogous task as controlled and reduced for research purposes. To allow for generalizations, this second understanding of a task should be close enough to the real one. Defining translation tasks for study purposes, whether experimental or not, is still waiting for a standard of sorts in our scientific community (see Muñoz 2014:10–16).

  2. 2.

    filler task segments are peculiar in that they host very few and obscure actions that are difficult to link to any cognitive process, exactly as in the case of pauses. In this view, filler task segments and their neighboring pauses might bundle some attention-demanding actions, such as evaluating the text written so far, planning the next actions and reading prospectively as much as a whole sentence ahead (first-pass reading), in order to determine possibly relevant factors. Merging pauses with the filler task segments they flank into superpauses seems a reasonable option but, at this preliminary stage, we keep them separate for the sake of clarity and precision.

  3. 3.

    In alternating or switch trials, t1→t2, we may also study the influence and effects of the second task t2 onto the prior category t1 (i.e., t1←t2), but Wylie and Allport (2000) show that simple task-switch costs seem to relate more to the effects of the preceding than to the upcoming task, so the direction t1←t2 will not be pursued here.

  4. 4.

    Using the most popular approach to the reconfiguration of behavioral repertoires, as we do here, does not mean, however, that we endorse it. We are provisionally blind as to the exact nature of the causes, focused as we are on simply determining whether there are costs when switching between translation subtasks.

  5. 5.

    Some actions and their associated processes might optionally feature on either side of the fuzzy frontier between pauses and task segments as cognitive, transitory constructs. For instance, many add segments may end with a respite before entering the punctuation mark, pressing the spacebar, or both. This might hint at a final process of evaluation of the target text stretch in the current task segment that otherwise might be one of the first processes within the following pause. This phenomenon seems, however, rare and this fuzziness precisely supports the existence of spillover effects.

  6. 6.

    stF does not exist. We jumped one letter to underscore the discontinuity between different data sets—stG is available at and sTH at

  7. 7.

    Both the BA and the MA students were being trained using a didactic approach in which they offer their services in response to different (fake) clients’ requests for each translation and would perform them only if they reached an agreement, which was not always the case. From a research perspective, this improves situatedness and skill transfer, but it also makes selecting data more difficult, since texts need to have been worked upon by all informants.

  8. 8.

    In the TSF, a second (lower) threshold at 2 × median pause within words is used to distinguish IKIs that may be cognitively motivated and mainly task-related, respites, from IKIs below such a threshold, which are considered to be mainly mechanical, or delays. The lower threshold may be used to further classify task segments devoted to one single subtask into fluent (no respites) and non-fluent (with at least two respites) task segments.

  9. 9.

    We realize that there may be important activities not yet reflected in the TSF, such as annotating information elsewhere as a reminder, etc., but we found no instance of such behavior in our samples.


  • Angelone, E. B., & Á. Marín García. In press. Reconceptualizing breaks in translation: Breaking down or breaking through? Translation and Interpreting (Special issue on “Probing the process in Cognitive Translation Studies: Towards more integrative research practices”, guest-edited by A. M. Rojo López and M. R. Caro).

    Google Scholar 

  • Baaijen, V., D. Galbraith, & K. de Glopper. 2012. Keystroke analysis: Reflections on procedures and measures. Written Communication 29 (3): 246–277.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Carl, M., B. Dragsted, & A. L. Jakobsen. 2011. A taxonomy of human translation styles. Translation Journal, 16 (2), [s.p.],

  • Dragsted, B. 2010. Coordination of reading and writing processes in translation: An eye on uncharted territory. In G. M. Schreve & E. Angelone (Eds.), Translation and cognition (pp. 41–62). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

  • Halverson, S. L., & R. Muñoz Martín. 2019. Default translation in the wild. Paper presented at the 9th EST Congress 2019, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, 9–13 September 2019.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heilmann, A., & S. Neumann. 2016. Dynamic pause assessment of keystroke logged data for the detection of complexity in translation and monolingual text production. In D. Brunato, F. Dell’Orletta, G. Venturi, T. François, & P. Blache (Eds.), Proceedings of the workshop on computational linguistics for linguistic complexity (pp. 98–103). Osaka. Accessed 21 July 2020.

  • Jakobsen, A.L. 2002. Translation drafting by professional translators and by translation students. In Empirical translation studies: Process and product, ed. G. Hansen, 191–204. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jimura, K., F. Cazalis, E. R. S. Stover, and R. A. Poldrack. 2014. The neural basis of task switching changes with skill acquisition. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8: 339.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Leijten, M., and L. Van Waes. 2013. Keystroke logging in writing research: Using Inputlog to analyze writing processes. Written Communication 30 (3): 358–392.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Massey, G., and M. Ehrensberger-Dow. 2014. Looking beyond text: The usefulness of translation process data. In Methods in writing process research, ed. J. Engberg, C. Heine, and D. Knorr, 81–98. Bern: Peter Lang.

    Google Scholar 

  • Monsell, S. 2003. Task switching. Trends in Cognitive. Science 7 (3): 134–140.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Muñoz Martín, R. 2014. Situating translation expertise: A review with a sketch of a construct. In The development of translation competence: Theories and methodologies from psycholinguistics and cognitive science, eds. J. W. Schwieter and A. Ferreira, 2–56. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Muñoz Martín, R., and C. Martín de León. 2018. Fascinatin’ rhythm—and pauses in translators’ cognitive processes. Hermes 57: 29–47.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Muñoz Martín, R., and J. Cardona Guerra. 2019. Translating in fits and starts: Pause thresholds and roles in the research of translation processes. Perspectives 27 (4): 525–551.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Muñoz Martín, R., & M. Apfelthaler. In press. The Task Segment Framework. Translation & Interpreting (Special issue on “Probing the process in Cognitive Translation Studies: Towards more integrative research practices”, guest-edited by A. M. Rojo López and M. R. Caro).

    Google Scholar 

  • Pinet, S., J.C. Ziegler, and F. Alario. 2016. Typing is writing: Linguistic properties modulate typing execution. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 23 (6): 1898–1906.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Plevoets, K., & Defranq, B. 2020. Imported load in simultaneous interpreting: An assessment. In R. Muñoz Martín & Sandra L. Halverson (Eds.), Multilingual Mediated Communication and Cognition (pp. 18–43). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Risku, H., Milošević, J., & Pein-Weber, C. 2016. Writing vs. translating: Dimensions of text production in comparison. In R. Muñoz Martín (Ed.), Reembedding translation process research (pp. 47–68). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

  • Salthouse, T.A. 1986. Perceptual, cognitive, and motoric aspects of transcription typing. Psychological Bulletin 99 (3): 303–319.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Schmitz, F., and A. Voss. 2014. Components of task switching: A closer look at task switching and cue switching. Acta Psychologica 151: 184–196.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Schneider, D. W., and G. D. Logan. 2007. Defining task-set reconfiguration: The case of reference point switching. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 14 (1): 118–125.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shaffer, L. H. 1975. Multiple attention in continuous verbal tasks. In Attention and performance V, eds. P. M. A. Rabbitt and S. Dornic, 157–167. New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shreve, G. M., C. Schäffner, J. H. Danks, and J. Griffin. 1993. Is there a special kind of ‘reading’ for translation? An empirical investigation of reading in the translation process. Target 5 (1): 21–41.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Snyder, K. M., and G. D. Logan. 2013. Monitoring-induced disruption in skilled typewriting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 39 (5): 1409–1420.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • VandenBos, G. (Ed.), 2015. APA Dictionary of Psychology (2nd ed). APA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waszak, F., B. Hommel, and A. Allport. 2005. Interaction of task readiness and automatic retrieval in task switching: Negative priming and competitor priming. Memory & Cognition 33 (4): 595–610.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wylie, G., and A. Allport. 2000. Task switching and the measurement of ‘switch costs’. Psychological Research 63 (3–4): 212–233.

Download references


We would like to thank Sandra Halverson, Christian Olalla-Soler, Iris Schrijver, Nicoletta Spinolo, and Bogusława Whyatt for their many observations and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. We took on board nearly everything we could, not all, but we thank them all the same, while we remain the only ones to blame.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ricardo Muñoz Martín .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Muñoz Martín, R., Apfelthaler, M. (2021). Spillover Effects in Task-Segment Switching: A Study of Translation Subtasks as Behavioral Categories Within the Task Segment Framework. In: Muñoz Martín, R., Sun, S., Li, D. (eds) Advances in Cognitive Translation Studies. New Frontiers in Translation Studies. Springer, Singapore.

Download citation