Abstract An accurate representation of task-set information is needed for successful goal directed behavior. Recent studies point to disturbances in the early processing stages as plausible causes for task-switching deficits in schizophrenia. A task-cueing protocol was administered to a group of schizophrenic patients and compared with a sample of age-matched healthy controls. Patients responded slower and less accurate compared with controls in all conditions. The concurrent recording of event-related brain potentials to contextual cues and target events revealed abnormalities in the early processing of both cue-locked and target-locked N1 potentials. Abnormally enhanced target-locked P2 amplitudes were observed in schizophrenic patients for task-switch trials only, suggesting disrupted stimulus evaluation and memory retrieval processes. The endogenous P3 potentials discriminated between task conditions but without further differences between groups. These results suggest that the observed impairments in task-switching behavior were not specifically related to anticipatory set-shifting, but derived from a deficit in the implementation of task-set representations at target onset in the presence of irrelevant and conflicting information.