This study examined the effects of cue validity and cue difficulty on response preparation to provide a test of the Grouping Model [Adam, J.J., Hommel, B. and Umilta, C., 2003. Preparing for perception and action (1): the role of grouping in the response-cuing paradigm. Cognit. Psychol. 46(3), 302-58, Adam, J.J., Hommel, B. and Umiltia, C., 2005. Preparing for perception and action (II) automatic and effortful processes in response cuing. Vis. Cogn. 12(8), 1444 1473.]. We used the pupillary response to index the cognitive processing load during and after the preparatory interval (2 s). Twenty-two participants performed the finger-cuing tasks with valid (75%) and invalid (25%) cues. Results showed longer reaction times, more errors, and larger pupil dilations for invalid than valid cues. During the preparation interval, pupil dilation varied systematically with cue difficulty, with easy cues (specifying 2 fingers on 1 hand) showing less pupil dilation than difficult cues (specifying 2 fingers on 2 hands). After the preparation interval, this pattern of differential pupil dilation as a function of cue difficulty reversed for invalid cues, suggesting that cues which incorrectly specified fingers on one hand required more effortful reprogramming operations than cues which incorrectly specified fingers on two hands. These outcomes were consistent with predictions derived from the Grouping Model. Finally, all participants exhibited two distinct pupil dilation strategies: an "early" strategy in which the onset of the main pupil dilation was tied to onset of the cue, and a "late" strategy in which the onset of the main pupil dilation was tied to the onset of the target. Thus, whereas the early pupil dilation strategy showed a strong dilation during the preparation interval, the late pupil strategy showed a strong constriction. Interestingly, only the late onset pupil dilation strategy revealed the above reported sensitivity to cue difficulty, showing for the first time that the well-known pupil's sensitivity to task difficulty can also emerge when the pupil is constricting instead of dilating.